CTDOT Gold Star Memorial Bridge UAS Inspection

New London, CT

AI Engineers, Inc. (AI) provided Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) services for this inspection of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge over the Thames River between New London and Groton, CT.

The intent of the operation was to view areas of the bridge that were inaccessible through traditional methods during the biennial inspection, with the exception of structure climbing. AI deployed an Align M690 UAS equipped with a high-resolution photograph and high-definition video camera. A thermal imaging camera was also mounted to the UAS. 

The UAS was staged for takeoffs and landings at multiple below-deck locations along the bridge, including a barge in the middle of the Thames River when inspecting the main span. 

Over 550 geotagged, high-resolution photographs and 2 hours of high-definition video were captured during the multiple hours of flight. An inspection report was prepared using the data gathered.

An FAA Certificate of Waiver or Authorization was issued to operate in Class D airspace where the bridge is located. Acquiring this permit was a challenge as FAA regulations were in their infancy, and UAS integration had just begun. Extensive coordination was necessary due to the sensitivity of surrounding stakeholders, which included a nuclear submarine base, Coast Guard academy, regional airport, two cities, and marine ports to name a few.

This was the first UAS operation performed for CTDOT, and one of the first of its kind in the country. The success of this project paved the way for future CTDOT-approved UAS flight procedures and activities


  • Client: CTDOT
  • Duration: 2016
  • Project Scope:
    • UAS inspection
    • Class D Airspace Waiver/Authorization
    • Over 550 geotagged, high-resolution photographs
    • 2 hours of high-definition video
    • First CTDOT-sanctioned UAS operation for the department