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Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Highway Construction (2022)

Chapter: Chapter 2 - Literature Review

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Literature Review." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Highway Construction. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26546.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Literature Review." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Highway Construction. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26546.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Literature Review." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Highway Construction. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26546.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Literature Review." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Highway Construction. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26546.
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Page 9

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6 Literature Review From 2014 to 2021, there were 22 technical reports and papers on various UAS usage by state DOTs, including two joint efforts by New England and U.S. DOTs. Of those 22, only seven were using drones, or were considering using drones, for highway construction projects. The most dominant construction application in the seven reports that covered construction is surveying for preconstruction and construction. Moreover, the major motivation for most of these reports was to survey possible UAS applications for their agencies. The following sections contain brief summaries of these 22 reports and papers. Table 1 categorizes these 22 technical reports by types of sensors, motivations, and applications. 2.1 UAS Uses by State Departments of Transportation A total of 16 of 22 reports investigated the use of UAS for inspection. Some of them were feasibility or proof-of-concept studies to investigate whether UAS can be used for the intended purposes. The purposes were bridge inspection [see the following references: Florida (June 2015); Idaho (August 2017); Massachusetts (December 2019); Michigan (April 2015); Michigan (May 2018); Minnesota (July 2015); Minnesota (July 2018); New York (June 2017); Oregon (February 2018); Oregon (March 2018); South Carolina (December 2019); and United States DOT: Arkansas, Connecticut, and Florida (October 2016)], traffic monitoring [see the following references: Kansas (August 2016); Michigan (April 2015); Michigan (May 2018); New England Transportation Consortium: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont (March 2021); New Hampshire (June 2019); New York (June 2017); and Texas (Texas A&M Transportation Institute, December 2017)]. Other intended purposes were also collision recon- struction [see the following references: Kansas (August 2016); North Carolina (May 2018)] and construction-related applications [see the following references: Georgia (April 2019); Indiana (March 2020); Kansas (August 2016); Montana (March 2017); New England Transportation Consortium: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont (March 2021); New Hampshire (June 2019); and South Carolina (December 2019)]. There were also studies that investigated rules and regulations related to, and affecting, UAS operations [see the following references: Indiana (March 2020), Minnesota (July 2018), and North Carolina (January 2020)]. The majority of the 22 studies had more than one application investigated. Many of these studies included actual case studies as proof-of-concepts in addition to the literature review. 2.2 Visual Sensors for Unmanned Aerial Systems With recent advances in computer vision that turns 2-D images into 3-D geospatial data (often referred to as point clouds), the use of UAS has led to more efficient and safer ways to perform surveying and 2-D and 3-D mapping. All 22 studies were interested in the use of digital cameras. C H A P T E R   2

Literature Review 7   State DOT Project Description Sensors Motivation for Research Drone Usage C am er a Li da r Th er m al A pp lic ab ili ty Ev al ua tio n In sp ec tio n Eq ui pm en t a nd W or kf lo w Li te ra tu re R ev ie w In sp ec tio n Tr af fic M on ito rin g C ol lis io n R ec on st ru ct io n Su rv ey in g M ap pi ng Florida (June 2015) (Otero et al. 2015) Proof of Concept for Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for High Mast Pole and Bridge Inspections: Final Report X - - X X X - X - - - - Georgia (April 2019) (Irizarry and Johnson 2019) Guideline development for the integration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) operations based on the experience and lessons learned from field tests with UAS technology on selected tasks performed by several groups within Georgia DOT. X - - X X - - X* - - - Idaho (August 2017) (Dorafshan et al. 2017) Fatigue crack detection in under-bridge inspection. Includes rich literature review. X - X X X X X X - - - - Indiana (March 2020) (Hubbard and Hubbard 2020) Overview of UAS applications that may be appropriate for Indiana DOT, as well as a description of the regulations that affect UAS operation as described in 14 CFR, Part 107. X X - - X X* - - - Kansas (August 2016) (McGuire et al. 2016) Literature review on the commercial companies currently using UAS and research done by other DOTs. X - - X - - X X X X X* X* X* X* X* X* Massachusetts (December 2019) (Plotnikov et al. 2019) Review of current procedures used in state DOT bridge and rail inspections and the experiences of these state DOTs in integrating UAS technologies into such inspections. Based on this review, the University of Massachusetts research team developed and tested practical procedures and protocols to guide Massachusetts DOT in the integration of UAS technologies into bridge and rail inspections. X - - X - - - X - - - - Michigan (April 2015) (Brooks et al. 2014) Testing and evaluation of five main unmanned aerial sensors to assess critical transportation infrastructure X X X X - - - X X - - - and issues such as bridges, confined spaces, traffic flow, and roadway assets. Michigan (May 2018) (Brooks et al. 2018) Testing and evaluation of five main UAV platforms with a combination of sensors to determine how to implement them into Michigan DOT workflows. Field demonstrations at bridges, a construction site, road corridors, and along highways. X X X X - - - X X - - - Minnesota (July 2015) (Lovelace and Zink 2015) Evaluation of technologies and studies of safety concerns for bridge inspection. X - - X X - - X - - - - Minnesota (July 2018) (Wells and Lovelace 2018) Improvement of bridge inspection quality using UAS. Rules and regulations, drone hardware, and the ability of drones to collect quality inspection data. X - - X X X - X - - - - Missouri (May 2018) (Lercel et al. 2018) Adoption of UAS technology at the national and state levels, focusing on the role of transportation agencies, activities, policies, and strategies promoting safe UAS operations and economic growth. - - - X - - - - - - - - Montana (March 2017) (Beal 2017) Equipment and workflows used to collect imagery of Lincoln Road. X - - - - X - - - - - New England Transportation Consortium—Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont (March 2021) (Mallela et al. 2021) Guidance to New England state DOTs regarding effective practices for incorporating UAS into daily operations. X - - X - - - X X - X* New Hampshire (June 2019) (O’Neil-Dunne and Estabrook 2019) Evaluation of UAS-related technologies for a broad range of applications in the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (New Hampshire DOT). X - - X - - - X* X - - X vehicle (UAV) platforms with a combination of sensors Table 1. Literature review of similar projects by state DOT reports. (continued on next page)

8 Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Highway Construction Oregon (February 2018) (Gillins et al. 2018) Evaluation of the use of UAS in bridge inspection. X - - X X X X X - - - - Oregon (March 2018) (Hurwitz et al. 2018) Simulator study on the effects that drones used for bridge inspections and other highway-related uses have on the traveling public. X - - X - - - X - - - - South Carolina (December 2019) (Burgett et al. 2019) Benefits of UAS technology when deployed at the South Carolina DOT, specifically focused on the areas of land surveying and bridge inspection. X - - X X - - X - - - Texas (Texas A&M Transportation Institute, December 2017) (Stevens and Blackstock 2017) Demonstration of traffic monitoring, incident detection and response, situational awareness, and crash-scene investigation mapping capabilities. X - - X - X - - X - - - United States DOT— Arkansas, Connecticut, and Florida (October 2016) (Gillins et al. 2016) Use of UAS technology as a tool for assisting with a bridge inspection. X - - - X - X X - - - - *Applications for highway construction. NOTE: Dashes indicate that the sensors, motivation for research, and drone usage types listed in the column heading above the dashes do not apply to the projects in the corresponding rows. X* New York (June 2017) (Kamga et al. 2017) Assessment of the existing capabilities of UAS and unmanned ground system technologies for responding to highway incidents, including field surveying, accident information collection and reconstruction, and X - - X - - X X X - - X other related requirements for clearing a highway incident. Exploration of other transportation applications such as bridge inspection, traffic monitoring, road construction, and maintenance worker safety. State DOT Project Description Sensors Motivation for Research Drone Usage C am er a Li da r Th er m al A pp lic ab ili ty Ev al ua tio n In sp ec tio n Eq ui pm en t a nd W or kf lo w Li te ra tu re R ev ie w In sp ec tio n Tr af fic M on ito rin g C ol lis io n R ec on st ru ct io n Su rv ey in g M ap pi ng North Carolina (January 2020) (Gray et al. 2020) Synthesis of authoritative guidance on UAS platforms, payloads, flight operations, and the UAS regulatory environment. X X X X - - - - - - - X North Carolina (May 2018) (Eyerman et al. 2018) Evaluation of the suitability of using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to perform low-light collision-scene reconstructions. X - - X - X - - - X - - Table 1. (Continued). The other sensors that were less commonly investigated were lidar and thermal cameras [see Idaho (August 2017); Michigan (April 2015); Michigan (May 2018); North Carolina (January 2020)], which are much more expensive than digital cameras that are commonly equipped on UAS. These studies that investigated the use of lidar and thermal cameras were about inspection- related applications, such as bridge inspection, crack detection, and rail inspection. The literature review revealed that the two main uses of digital cameras were monitoring (traffic, worker safety, and construction) and surveying. Monitoring involved 2-D images and 3-D point clouds. Surveying in this synthesis refers to 3-D surveying of terrain for replacing traditional surveying (i.e., preconstruction terrain surveying). The term 3-D mapping refers to all other applications that require 3-D point cloud (i.e., 3-D mapping for stockpile measurement). 2-D images for monitoring were for applications where observations of objects (i.e., human and vehicles) were needed. 3-D point clouds for monitoring were needed when capturing of construction progress (measurement of stockpile volume versus the traditional approach of counting the number of haul trucks) was needed.

Literature Review 9   2.3 Construction Applications The two most dominant uses of UAS in construction were terrain survey for preconstruction and 3-D mapping of construction progress (i.e., stockpile measurement or documentation) [see Georgia (April 2019); Indiana (March 2020); Kansas (August 2016); Montana (March 2017); New England Transportation Consortium: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont (March 2021); South Carolina (December 2019)]. These studies focused on developing guidelines [see Georgia (April 2019); New England Transportation Consortium: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont (March 2021)], overall investigation of how UAS can apply to their practices and relevant regulations [see Indiana (March 2020); South Carolina (December 2019)], literature review [see Kansas (August 2016)], and a case example that described the overall workflow and hardware [see Montana (March 2017)]. They were mainly investigating whether adopting UAS for current operations would be feasible and beneficial. The main benefits were efficient and safe operations. The surveying and mapping of terrain using UAS, compared to traditional methods, can be done much quicker in the field, although post-processing can take hours in the office. Flying a UAS was also found to be safer, as operators can stay in the safer area to either manually control the UAS or secure the line of sight to the UAS if autonomously flown. However, there were safety concerns about UAS failure that could result in accidents. There were also concerns about flying drones over vehicles (i.e., traffic or equipment, if a construction site) and people (construction workers). 2.4 Summary A total of 21 state DOTs were involved in preparing the 22 reports that are summarized. A total of 11 state DOTs have investigated construction applications, although eight of them were investigating UAS applications in general. The most common motivation (21 out of 22 reports) was applicability evaluation. All 21 reports that investigated types of visual sensors focused on digital cameras and photogrammetry technologies that use digital images, such as orthoimages and 3-D mapping. The main benefits of these technologies for construction applications were efficient and safe operations.

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In the last decade, new technologies have transformed all stages of highway construction as more industry stakeholders have begun incorporating new technologies into their daily construction activities.

The TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program's NCHRP Synthesis 578: Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Highway Construction documents the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by state departments of transportation (DOTs) during highway construction, identifies potential benefits and obstacles DOTs face when implementing UAS in highway construction projects, and identifies information gaps to be filled that could enable state DOTs to enhance the benefits of UAS for construction-related operations.

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