Exploring the Use of Ground-Based Robotic Assistance in Uncrewed Operations of State DOTs

The Ohio Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center's new initiatives are leading the nation with research and development to improve airspace and utilize the many possibilities of uncrewed aircraft operation. Based on direction from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the current state of practice requires humans maintaining a visual line of sight during operation. This is referred to as a Visual Observer (VO). While human analysis can be imperative in ensuring safety for all aspects of the uncrewed aircraft, there are limitations (e.g., visual field, distraction) that can negatively impact these efforts. The threat of ground-based obstacles (e.g., trees, birds, topography) and air traffic (e.g., crewed airplanes, other drones) are also challenging, especially when there is more than one threat present during an operation. It is not uncommon to deploy teams of two or more people for uncrewed operations to assist with gear, site set-up, and provide multiple VOs. This practice consumes the limited resources available, which can negatively impact the overall efficiency of this specialized workforce. With the assistance of a ground based robotic assistant, a variety of advanced sensors and equipment could be carried to the destination and collection of ground-based data to augment the airborne data that is being collected would also be a possibility. Robotic assistants could be sent to different locations and terrain, some hazardous for humans to access as well. The goal of this research is to determine the viability of ground-based robotic assistants for UAS and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) operations. The objectives for this project are: (1) Develop concepts for operational use of ground-based robotic assistants for ODOT business functions to support uncrewed aircraft operations. (2) Evaluate existing technologies and tools utilized/developed by ODOT offices/districts that could be used to support (or be supported by) robotic assistants (e.g., pavement markings for autonomous vehicles, shoulder drop-off readings, pothole detection, culvert inspections). (3) Identify existing technologies and tools, readily available on the market, that could be utilized with or augmented by ODOT's existing technologies/accessories to support the identified concepts. (4) Develop an implementation guide for the various recommendations based on best use-case scenarios for each recommendation.


    • English


    • Status: Active
    • Funding: $1178926
    • Contract Numbers:




    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Federal Highway Administration

      Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
      McLean, VA  United States  22101
    • Managing Organizations:

      Ohio Department of Transportation

      Research Program
      1980 West Broad Street
      Columbus, OH  United States  43223
    • Project Managers:

      Spriggs, Jennifer

    • Performing Organizations:

      University of Cincinnati

      Civil Engineering Department, P.O. Box 210071, 741 Baldwin Hall
      Cincinnati, OH  United States  45221-0071
    • Principal Investigators:

      Kowalczyk, Bryan

    • Start Date: 20231221
    • Expected Completion Date: 20251021
    • Actual Completion Date: 0

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01901928
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Ohio Department of Transportation
    • Contract Numbers: 39167, 118085, 136674
    • Files: RIP, STATEDOT
    • Created Date: Dec 11 2023 3:15PM