Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are increasingly used for a variety of applications related to INDOT’s mission including bridge inspection, traffic management, incident response, construction and roadway mapping. UAS have the potential to reduce costs and increase capabilities. Other state DOTs and transportation agencies have deployed UAS for an increasing number of applications due to technology advances that provide increased capabilities and lower costs, resulting from regulatory changes that simplified operations for small UAS under 55 pounds (aka, sUAS).

This document provides an overview of UAS applications that may be appropriate for INDOT, as well as a description of the regulations that affect UAS operation as described in 14 CFR Part 107. The potential applications were prioritized using Quality Function Deployment (QFD), a methodology used in the aerospace industry that clearly communicates qualitative and ambiguous information with a transparent framework for decision making. The factors considered included technical feasibility, ease of adoption and stakeholder acceptance, activities underway at INDOT, and contribution to INDOT mission and goals. Dozens of interviews with INDOT personnel and stakeholders were held to get an accurate and varied perspective of potential for UAVs at INDOT.

The initial prioritization was completed in early 2019 and identified three key areas: UAS for bridge inspection safety as a part of regular operations, UAS for construction with deliverables provided via construction contracts, and UAS for emergency management. Descriptions of current practices and opportunities for INDOT are provided for each of these applications. An estimate of the benefits and costs is identified, based on findings from other agencies as well as projections for INDOT. A benefit cost analysis for the application of UAS for bridge inspection safety suggests a benefit cost over one for the analysis period.

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UAS, drone, strategic planning

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Performing Organization

Joint Transportation Research Program

Publisher Place

West Lafayette, IN

Date of this Version