June 9, 2022
Innovation of the Month: Unmanned Aerial Systems
States across the country are ramping up their Unmanned Aerial Systems programs as new use-cases and additional demand arises.
The Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) program is organized in a decentralized manner, with certified pilots spread through its districts, working under diverse groups and units based on their primary work location and function, along with a small support group located at headquarters. GDOT currently has 27 Part 107 certified pilots across 7 Field Districts. These 27 pilots are on pace to fly 2,000 or more missions/operations this Fiscal Year. Of these pilots, the 16 most seasoned and experienced and will fly 75-80 percent of these missions. The department’s program objective seeks to average three flights per pilot of 15 minutes or longer. Being a certified UAS pilot is a secondary duty for those who participate in the program.
Candidates for GDOT’s UAS pilot program must read and acknowledge GDOT Policy and complete the UAS Visual Observer (VO) course before they can be considered for training for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 exam.
The VO course is an important component of the overall program, as missions require both a pilot and a VO. The course teaches participants the purpose of the VO role and gives basic training to help protect the pilot and aircraft during a mission.
Once approved, candidates begin a self-paced training course to prepare for and take the FAA Part 107 exam. This course includes modules on rules and regulations; airspace and weather; UAS usage, maintenance, and emergency procedures; and more. GDOT administers the course as self-paced due to the volunteer nature of GDOT’s UAS pilot force and to minimize the impact to a typical workday during training. The training can take as little as 30 minutes per day, depending on an individual’s work needs. Certified pilots also receive a 3-hour onboarding training that demonstrates the pilot can manipulate the aircraft, understands process, understands how to set up controls, and more.
After initial training, pilots and district engineers communicate specific training requests to the UAS program manager. These supplemental trainings can include instruction on software, new or emerging use-cases, and for increased proficiency.
To learn more about GDOT’s UAS training program, contact Jeffrey Griffith, GDOT UAS Program Manager. To learn more about how to implement a UAS training program in your agency, contact James Gray, FHWA Office of Infrastructure, or John Haynes, FHWA Utah Division.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Cut Oklahoma Fatal Crash Roadway Clearance Time
Measuring traffic crash scenes is an important part of an investigation that not only documents the evidence, but also forms the basis for calculations about vehicle speeds and trajectories that can point to causation and sometimes criminal charges. Using State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) funding, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) purchased unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to map fatal crash scenes on critical interstates and other highways. The OHP previously used total station and robotic total station technologies to map collisions scenes, taking an average of approximately between one hour and thirty minutes to two hours, depending on the system used. With the adoption of UAS, troopers reduced that time to just twenty-six minutes, a savings of between 71 and 78 percent. When adding real time kinematic (RTK) global positioning systems (GPS), the scene time was slightly higher at thirty-six minutes but still provided huge savings of between 60 and 70 percent. Other police agencies around the country are experiencing similar results.
With and without RTK GPS, UAS is a very accurate and effective tool for traffic incident management (TIM), saving time, reducing congestion, and most importantly, improving safety. To learn more about Next Generation Traffic Incident Management and how to deploy UAS to reduce risk to police and motorists, please contact Paul Jodoin or James Austrich, FHWA Office of Operations.
Crowdsourcing and Modern Data Management Benefit Ohio DOT and All Road Users
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) accesses, integrates, enriches, and applies multiple sources of crowdsourced data in-house using a variety of cloud computing and data visualization tools. The agency processes real-time speed information across 27,000 center-lane miles of interstate, U.S., and State routes from a vehicle probe data provider as well as event data from the agency’s WazeÂ® Connected Citizens Program (CCP) partnership. ODOT shares these data through their traveler information platforms to improve road user decision-making. ODOT also uses these data within the agency for real-time operational decision making, after-action analysis, and operational planning.
The progression from manual time-consuming processes to stepwise automation of analyses along with subsequent improvements in analytical methods is notable in the agency’s transformation. For example, what typically required three days of effort by two to three staff members in generating weekly winter snow and ice performance measures is now achieved in less than 1.5 hours using computer code. Automation has also reduced computational errors and enables analysts to test process logic far more systematically and easily. The snow and ice performance measures are now more precise, comprehensive across roads, and far more accessible to staff. ODOT can now reinvest this time towards new services that further benefit the agency and road users.
By applying modern data management techniques and crowdsourced data, Ohio DOT now benefits from more efficient, timely, and precise processes that support better performance-based transportation systems management and operations decisions. To learn more about how crowdsourcing can help your State develop innovative practices such as these, contact James Colyar, Greg Jones, or Ralph Volpe with the FHWA Office of Operations, watch the EDC-6 Crowdsourcing spotlight video, or dive into the Adventures in Crowdsourcing webinar series.
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U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
EDC News; June 9, 2022