The Application of Unmanned Aerial Systems in Surface Transportation

Rapid proliferation of civilian unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), also known as drones, expand the horizon for a variety of transportation planning, management, and operational activities. Many State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have explored applications of UASs. The initial results indicate that UAS technology has the potential to improve cost-effectiveness and safety when integrated into conventional approaches for infrastructure inspections, asset management, construction monitoring, emergency response, traffic surveillance, crash investigation, and other transportation-related tasks. While there are many successful examples and use cases of UASs, relatively little research has been done to determine how to effectively integrate UAS-related technologies into State DOT operations. Considering the tremendous potential and rapidly evolving nature of UAS technology, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has launched a comprehensive research project aimed at evaluating current state-of-the-practice transportation applications of UASs at other State DOTs and developing a pilot program for applying UAS technology to address surface transportation needs in the Commonwealth. The project includes seven research tasks: (1) Development of a pilot program to integrate UASs into bridge and rail inspections; (2) Assessment of roadway pavement condition with UASs; (3) Evaluation of UAS highway speed sensing application; (4) Development of UAS emergency service drone network for use in surface transportation; (5) Assessment of UAS situational awareness technology to support applications in surface transportation; (6) Evaluation of UAS cybersecurity threats and countermeasures in surface transportation; and (7) Implementation, outreach, and technology transfer coordination and management.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $399998
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    Massachusetts Division
    55 Broadway, 10th Floor
    Cambridge, Massachusetts  United States  02142
  • Managing Organizations:

    Massachusetts Department of Transportation

    10 Park Plaza
    Boston, MA  United States  02116
  • Project Managers:

    Sherman, Gabriel

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    130 Natural Resources Road
    Amherst, MA  United States  01003
  • Principal Investigators:

    Knodler, Michael

    Fiondella, Lance

    Mogawer, Walaa

    Yuanchang, Xie

    Fitzpatrick, Cole

    Daiheng, Ni

    Plotnikov, Michael

    Chigan, Chunxiao

  • Start Date: 20180404
  • Expected Completion Date: 20190512
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: Research and Development

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01690693
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Massachusetts Department of Transportation
  • Contract Numbers: 103206
  • Files: RIP, STATEDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 9 2019 9:10AM