Drones are being trialled by Kent County Council and partners Amey plc in a bid to spot and fix problems with Kent’s roads.
The hi-tech gadget could be used to spot potholes, assess whether there are issues with trees and streetlights and ensure KCC has a regular and better understanding of the condition of its assets.
The trial, which is part of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) SMART Places Live Labs programme,trial will look at how effective the technology can be for highway inspections with the project potentially proving the case for it to be used more widely in the future.
KCC is responsible for the inspection and maintenance of 5,000 miles of road and 4,000 miles of footpaths; along with 122,000 streetlights, 500,000 trees, 250,000 drains and 2,200 bridges.
Each year, the council has over 100,000 enquiries about highways. Since January KCC has patched 512,303m2 of roads and filled 43,468 potholes.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Kent allowing us to have a much better understanding of the condition of our roads and assets across the county.
“For instance, rather than us having to drive around looking for issues or arrange to clamber up bridges, we can use the drone to quickly and easily spot any problems we might face.
“And rather than setting up traffic management and diversions to do an inspection, we can simply put a drone in the air – meaning Kent Highways staff can be freed up for other projects.
“With this new eye-in-the-sky technology we could have a quick and clear idea of what needs to be done, and where, meaning we will have the information at our fingertips rather than people simply reporting problems to us online.
“Ultimately this will lead to residents having a better experience on Kent’s roads. I look forward to the results of this trial and we will continue to work with our national partners in government and the aerospace industry to take this forward.”
Last year, ADEPT, in co-operation with the Department for Transport, announced a £22.95m Smart Places Research Programme funding package.
Giles Perkins, Programme Director for the ADEPT Live Labs initiative said: “ADEPT’s Live Labs programme aims to tackle some of the technological challenges faced by local highways authorities in the rapidly changing transport sector.
“The insights and learning from Kent and the other seven Live Labs, as they develop over the next two years, will be invaluable for local authorities and industry right across the UK and beyond”.
ADEPT represents local authority, county, unitary and metropolitan Directors.
The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme is a two-year £22.9 million project funded by the Department for Transport and supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, 02, Ringway and WSP.
Nine local authorities are working on projects to introduce digital innovation across SMART mobility, transport, highways, maintenance, data, energy and communications. Live Labs is part of ADEPT’s SMART Places programme to support the use of digital technology in place-based services.
This included the development of ‘autonomous vehicles’ focusing on innovation, collaboration and agility.
Kent County Council in collaboration with Amey submitted a bid to run one of the Live Labs and was successful in being granted £1.975m for a two-year project.