Woolpert lands contract to fly drones to look at rural roads

Beavercreek-based Woolpert has been hired by Michigan Tech Research Institute to collect imagery via drones of haul roads throughout the Midwest, the company announced.

The project, “Characterization of Unpaved Road Conditions Through the Use of Remote Sensing,” is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology.

The data collected will help test a set of algorithms developed by MTRI, a branch of Michigan Technological University located in central Michigan.

“The contract is to help commercialize computerized analysis and assessment of unpaved roads,” said Aaron Lawrence, Woolpert GIS expert and UAS technology developer, in a release. “Michigan Tech has some algorithms to detect potholes, rutting, damage, etc., through high-resolution imagery and 3D point clouds, which would be used to assess and address unstable roads.”

The drone is intended to provide a fast, safe and cost-effective collection to better understand where road material is lost and what damage there is to these roads., the company said.

“If I’ve got a 25-ton truck on a dirt road, and the road bank is unstable, that would be a safety hazard,” Lawrence said. “The key is identifying these issues before something bad happens.”

Woolpert has been employing drones for multiple industries that require remote and highly accurate imagery collections.

With 24 offices across the U.S., Woolpert has 213 employees in Beavercreek and 609 across the country.