TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT: Georgia DOT contemplating drones for traffic control

Georgia Tech study finds unmanned aerial vehicles could be used to track congestion hot spots, monitor vehicle speeds, among other functions

June 11, 2014

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) could be using drones to monitor traffic in the next several years, following a recent Georgia Tech study that found 40 different ways the agency could utilize unmanned aerial vehicles.

GDOT commissioned the $75,000 study to see if the prominent technology could be a possible resource in the future. Current federal laws don’t allow commercial use of drones, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in the process of drafting regulations. The first rule proposal is expected to come out sometime this year. Congress has given the FAA a deadline of Sept. 30, 2015, to successfully integrate drones into the public airspace.

As for the study itself, Georgia Tech researchers found a wide variety of uses for drones related to traffic management, including:

  • Congestion monitoring;
  • Traffic signal inspection; and
  • Vehicle speed sampling.

Other non-traffic-related uses could include bridge inspection and monitoring of wildlife and airport flight paths.

If the idea ever becomes a reality, GDOT expects that it would hire a company to operate the drones for them, rather than purchasing their own fleet of the unmanned vehicles.

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