AERAS Fog Uses Drones to Survey Pittsburgh Bridges for Structural Integrity  

AERAS said one of its drones can scan a bridge in less than 30 minutes.


The electrostatic-sanitization drone is used to clean large venues.

AERAS Fog Co., known for its patented electrostatic-sanitization drones, is taking a spin at helping Pittsburgh officials identify bridges for infrastructure and stability issues.

AERAS said it “is partnering with engineers and policymakers to use its drones to create and aggregate the largest and most precise data on infrastructure possible. The result will be the compilation of thousands of high-definition photos and data points that assist engineers and inspectors to have a fuller, more accurate picture of the state of bridges.”

AERAS drones take on new challenge

The Pittsburgh-based company was founded in 2020. Its drones were the first to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to sanitize outdoor venues against COVID-19, according to its website. They were used to clean the 2021 Kentucky Derby venue and the PPG Paints Arena.

But AERAS said its technology has multiple applications.

The company's precision lidar and photogrammetry capabilities allow its drones to scan a bridge safely and thoroughly in less than 30 minutes, said Justin Melanson, co-founder and chief innovation officer at AERAS.

“Our drones' precision imaging capabilities can show functional compromises or infrastructure stressors,” said Melanson, who also serves as the chair of PennDOT's Economic Development UAS Task Force. “From a time, efficiency, and safety standpoint, drones are the perfect partner to add to the bridge evaluation process. AERAS has the expertise and ability to evaluate 300 bridges in the next 30 days.”

Of the 1,580 bridges in Allegheny County, 175 are considered in “poor condition” by PennDOT, meaning they have advanced deterioration of their primary structural elements, according to AERAS. In January, the Fern Hollow Bridge at Frick Park collapsed. Ten people were injured.  

“Last month's collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge highlights the need for increased monitoring of infrastructure not only here in Pittsburgh, but [also] across the nation. We at AERAS are so thankful there hasn't been any loss of life from this catastrophic incident,” CEO and co-founder Eric Lloyd said.

“Engineers have a huge undertaking ahead of them here in the 'City of Bridges' — and, honestly, across the country — to make sure motorists are traveling on the safest infrastructure possible,” he added.

Drones space continues to grow

Drones are fast becoming important tools in inspections, research and construction. Companies such as Tel Aviv, Israel-based SiteWare LTD. are taking advantage of them as it builds out 3D models of construction projects.

In December, InfiniDome Ltd., Honeywell Aerospace, and Easy Aerial Inc. announced the Robust Navigation System for drones, which integrates GPS anti-jamming technology, a radar velocity system, and an inertial navigation system. 

The global drone inspection and monitoring market generated $6.44 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $35.11 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research. 

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The electrostatic-sanitization drone is used to clean large venues.

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