Tethered drones at crash scenes to help NCDOT manage traffic

In a first in the United States, two programs run by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) are coming together to improve road safety with tethered drones.

The statewide Incident Management Assistance Patrol (IMAP) program and the Division of Aviation’s UAS program will deploy tethered drones from select IMAP vehicles to enhance awareness of the situation. This will both help first responders assess incidents such as collisions and better assist with overall traffic management.

State Highway Operations Engineer Dominic Ciaramitaro explains:

Along our highways, where our IMAP patrols operate, there are gaps in camera coverage, so we don’t have perfect situational awareness. Tethered drones will help us fill these gaps.

IMAP trucks are equipped with multiple specialized tools to assist stranded motorists or scene management with first responders. But traditionally, traffic operations personnel view video feeds through traffic cameras or receive reports from responders in the field. Adding Fotokite tethered drones to their toolbox will allow operators to get more information in real time, with higher quality video and for longer periods of time.

The highly portable drones can fly up to 150 feet to take video and broadcast it live to the Statewide Transportation Operations Center (STOC), regional traffic management centers, as well as emergency management personnel during the incident.

This instantaneous information will enable a safer environment for people at the scene or approaching an incident, while enabling centers to better manage traffic and share more accurate traveler information with the public.

Read also : Police in Canada use a drone to arrest a driver who doubles the speed limit

The IMAP team, which is initially testing two tethered drone systems to gauge their effectiveness, says they are already seeing results from this innovative technology. In its first field operation, a drone was deployed to monitor an accident near the US 13 and Interstate 95 interchange in Fayetteville. The flying machine remained in the air for nearly five consecutive hours, providing unprecedented situational awareness.

The NCDOT Traffic Operations Section will review future deployment of tethered drones upon completion of pilot evaluation. Meanwhile, you can see the tethered drone in action here:

Read more: Nebraska will use drones to investigate crash scene

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