Drones to Tackle Congestion on Ireland’s Roads and Rails

Ireland's highway agency is ordering surveying drones to help avoid road closures

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the body responsible for Ireland's national roads and public transit, is preparing to use drones for surveying. (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the body responsible for Ireland’s national roads and public transit, is preparing to use drones for surveying. (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

According to their tender documents, the TII is interested in ordering two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—one fixed-wing and one multi-rotor—accompanied by technical support, flight planning, photo processing and training on how to operate them. They have a budget of up to €95,000 ($120,000) for the program

The drones are meant to replace on-the-ground road checks and surveys for infrastructure projects, allowing the TII to avoid unnecessary road closures. “Currently there are men and women out there who have to set up traffic management and divert roads to conduct inspections but that can all be avoided by being able to put a drone in the air,” TII communications director Sean O’Neill told The Irish Times. “Surveys are the bread and butter for many of our staff, who have become very well versed in drones over the last couple of years. It is going to make much of our work more efficient.”

The TII will also use the drones to identify congestion on Dublin’s tram lines and may use them to help plan the city’s New Metro North project, a high-speed transit link between the city center and the Dublin airport.

The TII became interested in using drones after seeing the successes of UAV technology in other fields. Irish agriculture, in particular, has benefited from UAV use, with farmers using drones to monitor crop growth, analyze soil composition and track their livestock. Closer to home, Dublin’s Fire Brigade is already using drone surveillance to find and fight fires, and the City Council has started using drones to track illegal dumping.

And the TII isn’t alone in its push to use drones in infrastructure. A 2017 study put out by PwC Ireland found that infrastructure is one of the biggest potential markets for UAVs, with an estimated global market value of $45.2 billion. “Drones and the data they provide are a game changer over the entire lifecycle of a transport infrastructure investment,” company Advisory Leader Ciarán Kelly said after the study’s release. “Provision of real-time, accurate and comparable 3D modelling data is crucial during the pre-construction, construction and operational phases of an investment project, and all of this data can be acquired by intelligent and cost-effective drone powered solutions.”