North Carolina flies tethered drones to aid emergency traffic management
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is piloting the use of tethered drones (unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS) on its Incident Management Assistance Patrol (IMAP) vehicles nationwide. status to help with overall traffic management during network incidents.
UAS are intended to help responders assess incidents, provide situational awareness to the NCDOT Statewide Transportation Operations Center (STOC) and Traffic Management Centers (TMCs), and assist with overall traffic management during incidents. . The deployment of this technology was made possible through a Federal Innovation Grant received in 2020.
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“Along our highways, where our IMAP patrols operate, there are gaps in camera coverage, so we don’t have full situational awareness,” said Dominic Ciaramitaro, traffic operations engineer for the IMAP. ‘State. “Our tethered drones will help us fill these gaps.”
Traditionally, traffic operations personnel view video feeds to STOC/TMC via traffic cameras or receive reports from responders in the field. Tethered drones safely offer another method to provide more information in real time, with higher quality video and for longer periods of time.
IMAP trucks are equipped with multiple specialized tools to assist stranded motorists or scene management with first responders. Tethered drones will be just one more resource in their toolbox.
The drone can fly up to 150 feet to take video and broadcast it live to the regional STOC/TMC as well as emergency management personnel during the incident. This instantaneous information can provide a safer environment for people at the scene or approaching an incident and allow centers to better manage traffic and share more accurate traveler information with the public. The systems are highly portable and can be quickly launched and recovered.
The IMAP team has two tethered drone systems that it will test as part of the pilot project. The UAS and IMAP program team trained the first IMAP supervisor in January. IMAP used it a few days after training to investigate an accident near the US 13 and Interstate 95 interchange in Fayetteville as its first field operation. The drone was in the air for almost five consecutive hours.
IMAP is managed by the divisions and is supported statewide by NCDOT’s Traffic Operations Section, which is part of the Transportation Systems Management and Operations Unit. The Aviation Division advised and supported the unit in the purchase, testing and training of tethered drone systems as part of its work to expand the beneficial use of drones through the NCDOT. The NCDOT Traffic Operations Section will review future deployment of tethered drones upon completion of pilot evaluation.
Illustration: Magic Torch