In a US-first, two programs running under 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 be deploying tethered drones from select IMAP vehicles to enhance situational awareness. This will both help first responders assess incidents such as crashes and to better assist with the overall traffic management.
State traffic operations engineer Dominic Ciaramitaro explains:
Along our interstates, 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 those gaps.
IMAP trucks are equipped with multiple specialized tools to assist stranded motorists or scene management with first responders. But traditionally, traffic operations staff have been viewing video feeds through traffic cameras or they receive reports from responders in the field. The addition of Fotokite tethered drones to their toolkit will allow operators to get more information in real time, with higher-quality video, and for long periods of time.
The highly portable drones can fly up to 150 feet to take video and livestream it to the Statewide Transportation Operations Center (STOC), regional traffic management centers, as well as to emergency management personnel at the incident.
This instant information will enable a safer environment for those on scene or approaching an incident, while at the same time, allowing the centers to better manage traffic and share more accurate traveler information to the public.
The IMAP team, which is testing two tethered drone systems initially to assess their efficacy, says it’s already seeing results from the innovative technology. As its first operation in the field, a drone was deployed to survey a crash near the US 13 and Interstate 95 interchange in Fayetteville. The flying machine was in the air for nearly five continuous hours, providing unparalleled situational awareness.
The NCDOT’s Traffic Operations section will consider future deployment of tethered drones upon completion of the pilot’s evaluation. Meanwhile, you can see the tethered drone in action here: