Boston Herald, 2 February 2016
The [Massachusetts] state Department of Transportation is trying to get drone-certified, the first step toward allowing it to zip the flying machines around bridges, into tunnels and by other places for inspections, its top official said yesterday.
The agency is starting the certification process with the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a “larger drone,” according to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, though what type of drone the agency might ultimately buy is still being discussed.
“It’s not like the little ones you get for your Christmas presents,” Pollack said. “There is a lot of interest in remote inspections of the underside of bridges and interesting things we would do. I do think it’s a technology that is going to be very valuable in the infrastructure industry, but we’re in the early stages of figuring it out.”
The clearance, known as a certificate of waiver or authorization, allows public agencies to operate the unmanned aerial vehicles in particular areas.
The Herald reported in December that MassDOT was exploring the potential for flying drones under bridges, over airports and into tunnels to tackle time-consuming inspections in what is still a relatively new development nationally for transportation agencies.
In Connecticut, officials had planned a test run using a private vendor’s drone to do a “limited” assessment of a bridge last month, while in Minnesota, officials conducted test inspections on four bridges last year, at a cost of $33,506.
MassDOT is also creating a “working group” to address potential state regulations on the use of drones.