Transportation Communication Tower Inspection Using Novel UAV Technologies

Transportation communication towers facilitate telecommunications that are essential for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) applications in advancing transportation safety and mobility operations. State DOTs and other agencies spend considerable amount of dollars annually to maintain towers as they are an integral part of their assets. The advancement in unmanned aerial vehicle inspections have propelled its application for assessing the infrastructure condition, especially where traditional monitoring methods are limited by the inaccessibility to hard-to-reach areas. Drone data collection of infrastructure requires many data related tasks such as capture, management, analysis and optimization of data. Big data analytics platforms are efficient in storing, processing, analyzing and visualizing large data sets collected by UAV. Harnessing big data collected from UAVs will provide more insight into assessing current condition, forecast future condition and costs of repair, and provide decision makers with basis to make better informed decisions. The first phase of a multiphase study is proposed here to develop a safe and robust communication tower inspection methodology that involves both the use of UAV and photogrammetry technology as well as data analyses and mining on the aerially collected infrastructure data. During the initial phase, a methodology that involves the collection of aerial tower imagery, processing the images, and analyzing the resulting data using big data analytics tools to make informed decisions pertaining to asset management will be developed. These procedures will be validated with the ground truth measurements and will also compare the benefits of the proposed technology versus traditional methods of manual operations for the same inspection. If successful in the proposed objectives, the study will provide deliverables of a new UAV methodology that will be beneficial to transportation agencies that require proper functioning of towers for ITS operations