How Drones make Inspecting Bridges Cost-Effective & Pain-less

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How Drones make Inspecting Bridges Cost-Effective & Pain-less

Bridges enable the safe transportation of goods & people over dangerous or impassable terrain. In a report by ARTBA, in the US alone 1 in 3 bridges need repair or replacement. Bridges are a significant feature of a nation’s infrastructure, routine inspections and maintenance are vital to keeping disruptions to a minimum. However, traditional inspections are costly, time-consuming and dangerous- because of this bridges are usually inspected biennially. The way to increase safety would be to inspect bridges more often. Drones can do exactly that- drones provide a cost-effective and efficient solution.
Traditional Inspections offer limited visibility at a high-cost point. The core of bridges and its features are often difficult to access, significantly limiting the methods of inspection available. In the past, suppose you wanted to conduct thorough, detailed inspections, you would have to employ the use of one or a combination of the following: rope, snooper truck, aerial lifts or specialized equipment. The classic inspection methods pose a severe hazard to its inspectors; a simple malfunction of the equipment can lead to fatal accidents.

Read how we inspected 3 bridges in two working days here.

Drone Technology can mitigate a lot of these risks and conduct inspections in one-third of the time necessary while being more cost-effective and producing better data. 


Drones only require a two-person team and the appropriate payload. Drones offer you a complete solution, removing the need to purchase and maintain specialized equipment. Equipment like snooper trucks and lift platforms are expensive to buy and maintain. On top of that, if you need further insight such as infrared or thermal inspections you need to purchase those tools separately.

A traditional inspection has teams of people working together to inspect a bridge which could take anywhere between one day to one week. Depending on the requirements, the team may need to erect scaffoldings, or employ the use of a snooper truck which would close down a lane of traffic- these operations become costly quickly.

Drone inspections are carried out by a two-person team who do not disrupt traffic. A drone can also cover a lot more ground, with the ability to inspect multiple bridges in a day. The upfront cost of procuring drones is lesser compared to snooper trucks or lift platforms, as is the maintenance cost. 

Safety Increased

Inspectors put themselves in danger regularly to inspect bridges. Inspectors may have to suspend themselves using ropes to access either the underside or the cap and cables, which is an apparent hazard where they are at the whim of the rope’s integrity, wind and weather.

Alternatively, they can use scaffolding, snoopers or lifts. While it seems like a safer option, the inspectors are one malfunction away from fatal accidents. These trucks, when parked on the highway, also pose a danger to other traffic. 

A two-person drone team can inspect from a safe distance, removing the need of an inspector to endanger their safety. Drones are also non-intrusive, allowing traffic to flow freely without disruptions. Drones can manoeuvre around the bridge to reach hard-to-access areas and capture high-resolution images and videos using which the inspector can examine the health of the bridge.

Data Accuracy

Traditional Inspections offer minimal visibility. Inspectors are dependent on the equipment, be it rope or aerial platform to inspect the bridge, and it is challenging to manoeuvre these to check the same area in multiple angles. Especially in tight spaces where the relieving slabs are situated, it is challenging to assess the health of each slab competently.

Drones are small, weightless and nimble. They can gracefully manoeuvre around the bridge and capture high-resolution photos and videos from multiple angles. They even fit in the tight spaces on the underside of bridges. The acquired data can also be converted into 3D reality captures, giving inspectors an overall view of the bridge and its immediate surroundings.

The high-resolution images and videos from drones allow the inspector or engineer to inspect the bridge without ever having to come on-site. Drone data can be easily integrated into any cloud infrastructure, further boosting its collaborative effectiveness.

Time Efficient

Usually, bridge inspections can take from a day to entire weeks to complete. It is a slow process where inspectors go from part to part to document and take readings. It becomes increasingly difficult and time-consuming, given the size and structural complexity of each bridge.

Inspectors methodically go from feature to feature, structure to structure looking for signs of erosion, cracks, rust or wear. If the area of inspection is in a hard-to-access space, it can be increasingly time-consuming to cover. If thermal or IR data is required, specialized equipment must be brought in and used separately.

Drones, on the other hand, are fast and versatile. They can move around the bridge smoothly, efficiently covering all parts of the bridge. Drones can also be attached with IR or Thermal sensors, making it a simple act of swapping out the payload to gather the appropriate data. Using drones, you can cover large bridges in just one day or five to six small bridges in a day.


Drones for Bridge Inspections are cost-effective, safe, non-intrusive and versatile. They surpass the conventional methods with their speed and accuracy, making them a superior choice. Using drones bridge inspections can be conducted more frequently, significantly increasing their reliability and safety.

Read our Bridge Inspection case study here.

About the author

Niiveth Mani


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