Drone usage takes flight in transportation industry

Posted in: Bridges, Highways


two men in winter attire holding drone controlsThe transportation industry is constantly evolving. To keep up, our Mead & Hunt Transportation team consistently looks for new ways to do old things. Often this means adopting new technology and applying it to our current processes. Our unmanned aerial systems (UAS) program is a good example of how new technology can be used to enhance our projects.

Our team has a fleet of two small UAS, or drones, equipped with high-quality cameras that allow us to collect survey data, take marketing photos, and perform visual inspections. Drones are becoming increasingly common in a number of capacities, and the transportation industry is just beginning to understand their full potential. The possibilities are seemingly endless—from security work and land management to infrastructure inspection, drones can be used to better many of our work processes.

From my perspective as a surveyor, using UAS is a safer, more efficient way to collect large quantities of data. Drone flights are largely automated, which greatly increases the safety and quantity of data we are able to collect. Height, flight pattern, overlap percentage, and camera angle are all controlled by our flight app. Our surveyors set ground control points using GPS so that our project is accurately tied to the real world. By automating the process, we are able to cut out opportunities for human error.

aerial with 3D model laid over
Our team uses UAS technology to collect data and imagery that can be used to build 3D models of the existing terrain.

We have seen promising results from our use of UAS technology. A great example of the real-world applications this technology offers our industry is the creation of digital terrain models. Once data is collected, we use Bentley ContextCapture to create a digital terrain model. These models can then be used to create accurate, useful designs.

As with any new technology, there are inevitably kinks to work through, but the opportunities we see are well worth the effort. We are excited to see what the future holds for this new technology and are committed to remaining on the front lines as new technologies emerge.


Justin Duffie

About the Author

As a surveyor for Mead & Hunt’s Transportation team, Justin Duffie is passionate about utilizing innovative strategies to increase project efficiency and safety. He specializes in survey and right-of-way projects and is also a licensed pilot.

Read more posts by Justin Duffie

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