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Drone Bridge Inspections
Applied Technical Services is a consulting engineering firm that performs inspections for clients who need to determine the condition and maintenance needs of their bridge. We offer drone bridge inspections to complement traditional inspections — a more modern and efficient method of assessing these important pieces of infrastructure.
The various entities that own the world’s bridges share a common understanding. They all know that a bridge is a complex feat of engineering that needs regular assessment and maintenance to ensure it continues to function without failure.
Inspectors need to analyze various areas of concern for signs like cracking, corrosion, or other structural damage to determine the overall health of the bridge. Take for instance a steel girder bridge intended for a high volume of vehicle traffic: girders support a great deal of weight from the underside of the bridge. Cover plates, which are welded onto the bottom flange, strengthen these girders. The load caused by traffic is applied to the cover plate at a perpendicular angle every time a car passes overhead, making these components especially susceptible to stress-related (fatigue) damage. If minute stress fractures develop in one of these cover plates, it can undermine the structural integrity of a section of the bridge over time. It is an inspector’s job to investigate known or expected problem areas like these and quantify any findings.
Regularly scheduled inspections serve to alert concerned parties of smaller issues and suggest preventive maintenance to avert greater problems. The potential impacts of a bridge failure all but demand good inspection practices. The ability to avoid lengthy traffic shutdowns, large repair expenses, preventable injuries, and even loss of life serve as strong motivators. Fortunately, ATS is a trusted structural consulting engineering provider and has a long history of providing inspection services.
Conventional Bridge Inspection Methods
While inspectors can observe certain areas of interest from the ground or the deck of the bridge, plenty more needs to be scrutinized. Components like suspension cables stretched high in the air, and support beams running beneath the bridge are difficult to access and yet need the most attention from inspectors.
The methods used to access these areas have remained largely unchanged for decades. While small bridges over shallow waterways can sometimes be accessed using a ladder, inspections of larger bridges have been completed using one or more of the following methods:
These methods have certain limitations, however. Using snooper trucks and suspended access require lane closures for vehicle traffic bridges, which inconveniences drivers and increases the total cost of inspection. AWPs are completely inapplicable for examining foundations and substructures of bridges spanning bodies of water. Renting specialized equipment, namely a snooper truck or AWP, increases the cost of the inspection. Finally, although each of these methods takes precautions to ensure the safety of the personnel performing the inspection, they each involve an inherent risk of an inspector falling from significant heights.
ATS Engineering recognizes the limitations inherent to these conventional methods and uses a powerful supplementary tool to increase the efficiency of inspection services: introducing drone bridge inspections.
Advantages of UAV Bridge Inspections
Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or small unmanned aircraft systems (sUASs), offer ATS inspectors a variety of benefits over conventional inspection methods.
Drone-assisted visual inspections are nonintrusive, versatile, cost-effective, and perfectly safe compared to older methods due to the flight capabilities of these small units. By evaluating the high-quality footage taken by the powerful cameras mounted onto these highly maneuverable UAVs, ATS inspectors can quickly and efficiently conduct thorough visual inspections of areas of interest. Our unit’s multiple camera mount positions let inspectors view substructure bridge elements; by mounting the camera to the top of the unit, inspectors can examine areas of interest (like piers and abutments), unlike other units that can only look downward.
Furthermore, the UAVs we use for bridge inspections:
While drones cannot fully replace the need for other means of access, such as in the case of nondestructive examination or small repairs, they represent a powerful tool for inspectors to implement in the visual inspection process. By using these units alongside our rope access capabilities, ATS can provide a more comprehensive and more efficient bridge inspection for a lower price.
Our engineering department also employs a set of vehicles capable of inspecting areas inaccessible to GPS signals, such as inside a building or piece of large equipment.
Regulations and Standards for Commercial Drone Use
The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulates the commercial use of UAVs in the interest of maintaining order and safety in the airways. ATS abides by the following rules when performing inspections with our UAVs:
ATS' Drone Inspection Services
Founded in 1967, Applied Technical Services provides engineering consulting, inspection, and testing services of unmatched quality to clients around the world. During the five decades that ATS has been in business, we have grown to serve clients from a variety of industries with an ever-growing list of analysis capabilities. Although our UAV bridge inspection services mostly apply to clients in the construction business, the following industries can also benefit from our broader drone inspection capabilities:
Every drone-assisted inspection is conducted by an inspecting duo: one FAA licensed pilot to fly the drone itself and one experienced camera operator to ensure safe flight and quality footage. This team locates areas of concern, collects images and video, and analyzes them to draft a report of their findings. ATS Engineering recommends regularly scheduled inspections to ensure the structure’s continued health, but also offers initial, special, and damage inspection services for those clients who need them.
Our Commitment to Providing Quality Service
ATS abides by a policy of providing services of excellent quality. Our commitment to this policy guarantees that clients can expect a report that is clear, accurate, and detailed when laying out causes for concern and recommended maintenance or repair actions. ATS’ pursuit of excellence does not end at producing quality work; we carry that passion over into our customer service practices. We take steps to ensure that our reports are delivered promptly by knowledgeable technicians who are responsive, engaged, and available to answer your questions as they arise.
If your company needs UAV bridge inspections that you can rely on, contact ATS today — We take a closer look!