MassDOT District 6 High-Mast light Structures UAS Inspection

Boston, MA

AI Engineers, Inc. (AI) provided Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) services for the inspection of high-mast light structures 396, 401, and 402 along I-93 in Boston, MA. This operation supplemented an existing biennial inspection contract AI holds with MassDOT.

Traditional inspection methods for these light structures consist of an inspector in a 60-ft. manlift with binoculars. MassDOT District 6 was interested to see if using UAS technology could provide a better level of inspection. 

AI deployed a DJI Matrice 210 RTK UAS equipped with Zenmuse Z30 and X4S cameras. The Z30 was mounted to the top of the UAS during flights to examine the underside of the light ring. Over 270 20-megapixel, geotagged, high-resolution photographs were collected as well as live high-definition video for MassDOT personnel to observe at all 3 structure locations. The resulting photographs captured angles that were previously unachievable through traditional inspection, including the top of the ring, in between each light head, and the mechanical components that lower the ring. 

Another distinct benefit was the time savings. Traditional inspections typically complete 4 or 5 high-mast locations in an 8-hour workday, but the UAS inspection, providing much more in-depth visual observations, completed 3 locations in 2-1/2 hours, which included travel, mobilization, operation, and demobilization. These results were added to AI’s traditional biennial inspection report submitted to MassDOT. 

Three separate FAA Certificates of Waiver or Authorization were obtained through the LAANC system to operate in Class B airspace where the structures are located. Coordination with local and federal authorities was also necessary.

Highlights 

  • Client: MassDOT
  • Duration: 2019
  • Project Scope:
    • UAS inspection
    • 3 separate Class B Airspace Waivers/Authorizations via LAANC system
    • Supplement to biennial inspection
    • Significant time savings compared to traditional inspection