Earlier this year, President Donald Trump made headlines by pushing for up to $1.7 trillion in funding for infrastructure improvements around the country. The actual amount of federal funding ended up being closer to $200 billion.
Hopefully, these spending plans will focus on the country’s collection of aging bridges, as well as new strategies for ensuring their safe use. To address this issue, Intel recently signed a deal with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for the use of their drone technology in performing bridges inspections.
Ideally, the nonintrusive nature of the drones would allow for quicker and more proactive detection of bridge soft spots without shutting down lanes, disrupting traffic, or putting workers in potentially dangerous situations. In an interview with Digital Trends, Anil Nanduri of the Intel Drone team stated that "[the] majority of U.S. bridges are more than 50 years old, and 10% of them are rated structurally deficient or obsolete."
Intel will use their V-shaped Falcon 8+ drones to fly specific routes over the bridges, capturing all the necessary data, including thousands of high-res images that can be viewed as three-dimensional data and reviewed over time. Currently, the carbon fiber-constructed drones are controlled by a human on the ground, but Intel hopes that the technology will eventually become completely autonomous — meaning more data can be collected, even more quickly, when making key decisions on repairs and upgrades.