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The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 53-09 [Active (Synthesis)]

Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Inspection of Stormwater Best Management Practices
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/30/2021 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Leslie C. Harwood
Research Agency: Maple Consulting, LLC
Principal Investigator: Michael Perez
Fiscal Year: 2022

                                                                                                                                         Final Scope

Inspection of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) is a requirement of most state departments of transportation (DOTs) construction and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. This inspection typically involves expensive and staff-intensive efforts for regular inspection to ensure the BMPs are installed, functioning as designed, and are not in imminent need of maintenance and/or retrofitting and replacement. In recent years, the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) has evolved rapidly as a tool with the potential to both reduce the costs and improve the data collected during stormwater BMP inspections for state DOTs. To date, UAS inspection of stormwater BMPs conducted by state DOTs has demonstrated the potential for promising results (or potential applications) with regard to speed, accuracy, and repeatability for several important BMP performance and maintenance factors.
The objective of this synthesis is to document the current practice of state DOT use of UAS as a tool for stormwater BMP inspections.

Information to be gathered includes (but is not limited to):
     • Curent field inspection protocols for stormwater BMPs and associated data post-processing methods;
     • Extent of the adoption of UAS for temporary and permanent stormwater BMP inspections;
     • Types of UAS and sensors used for stormwater BMP inspections;
     • Data collection process for UAS inspections (e.g. flight planning, extent of operations, in-house or contracted) and factors for selection of equipment (e.g. accuracy, staff time, and costs);
     • Technical limitations, problems encountered, and lessons learned in using UAS for inspections;
     • Software, integration, reporting, and data management considerations for using UAS for stormwater BMP inspections; and,
     • Legal limitations (e.g. restrictions on overhead flights) for UAS for stormwater BMP inspections.

Information will be collected through literature review, a survey of DOTs, and follow-up interviews with selected agencies for the development of case examples. Information gaps and suggestions for research to address those gaps will be identified.

Information Sources (Partial):
     • Technical Memo – Small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) Stormwater Control Measure (SCM) Inspection Pilot (prepared for MassDOT by Comprehensive Environmental, Inc., 2019).
     • 2019 AASHTO UAS/Drone Survey of All 50 State DOTs, https://www.transportation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/MissionControl_Drones3.pdf.
     • NC State: Unmanned Aircraft (drones) in Sediment and Erosion Control (2019) https://files.nc.gov/ncdeq/Energy%20Mineral%20and%20Land%20Resources/Erosion%20and%20Sediment%20Control/design_workshops/dec-2019-raleigh/Austin_Hairston_UAV_ESCWorkshop_2019.pdf. 
     • The Application of Unmanned Aerial Systems in Surface Transportation, (MassDOT 2019) https://www.mass.gov/doc/volume-i-executive-summary/download.
     • Walter McDonald (2019) Drones in urban stormwater management: a review and future perspectives, Urban Water Journal, 16:7, 505-518, DOI: 10.1080/1573062X.2019.1687745
     • Banks, E., Cook, S. J., Fredrick, G., Gill, S., Gray, J. S., Larue, T., and Wheeler, P. (2018). Successful Approaches for the Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems by Surface Transportation Agencies (NCHRP Project 20-68A, Scan 17-01). https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP20-68A_17-01.
     • Fischer, S., Lawless, E., Lu, J. and Van Fossen, K. (August 2020). Global Benchmarking Program Study on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for Surface Transportation: Domestic Desk Review. FHWA-HIF-20-091. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/uas/hif20091.pdf.
     • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) (October 2019). Tech Brief: Use of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems for Construction Inspection. U.S. Department of Transportation, FHWA, Office of Infrastructure. FHWA-HIF-19-096. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/uas/resources/hif19096.pdf.
     • Harper, C. (2019). Emerging Technologies for Construction Delivery (NCHRP 2005/Topic 49-02). https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4386.
     • Gheisari, M. & Esmaeili, B. (2019). Applications and requirements of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for construction safety. Safety Science, Vol. 118, 230-240.
     • MnDOT. (2018). Unmanned Aircraft System POLICY-2071545-v1. (MnDOT Policy OP006). Minnesota Department of Transportation. https://www.dot.state.mn.us/policy/operations/oe006.html.
     • Perez, M.A., Zech, W.C., and Donald, W.N. (2015). Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to Conduct Site Inspections of Erosion and Sediment Control Practices and Track Project Progression, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2528, pp. 38-48. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3141/2528-05.

Meeting Dates
First Panel: December 14, 2021, Virtual meeting
Teleconference with Consultant: January 31, 2022 from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
Second Panel: TBD, Washington, D.C.

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