Drones for road upkeep

Implementation of drones in road maintenance contracts in Urola and Deba (Guipúzcoa) to support maintenance crews in a number of tasks including surveillance, inspections and incident control.

  • 80.000 vehicles per day
  • 30 minutes is the average flight time
  • 100 km is the flight autonomy

Project description

This project consists of using drones as part of a highway upkeep contract, supporting the maintenance crews with numerous supervisory tasks such as surveillance, inspections, incident control and accident response.

The innovative feature here is that none of them will require  crews to travel to the location where the drone can operate, as it will be controlled remotely. The drone will operate BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight).

This project has a duration of 20 months and is aimed at designing, developing and testing a drone-based system to help highway maintenance crews to conduct a number of supervisory tasks, thereby boosting the quality, safety, efficacy and efficiency of the service. The project remit is to implement drones on all the roads under contract, regardless of the potential signal transmission difficulties due to the terrain or weather conditions in the area, and for the drones’ autonomy to not be a limiting factor.

The following project phases are now complete: analysis of requirements, definition of system specifications, definition of zones and protocols to assess the project’s feasibility, design, manufacture and assembly of the fixed-wing drone, as well as developing the drone’s advanced functionalities and conducting field tests in a real-life scenario. The project is in the final stage of optimising equipment and writing the protocols for use, as well as pilot training.

The project’s main challenge was to design the drones with the following features: take-off mass of less than 2 kilogrammes, the maximum authorised by current legislation for flights over 500 metres from the pilot’s visual range, autonomy to cover distances of approximately 100 kilometres from the take-off point, installation of radio-control devices to enable them to be flown safely, despite the difficult local terrain.

Flights took place over a 4 km section of road, with a duration of approximately 30 minutes.

General information

Urola and Deba coastal districts of Guipúzcoa
Government of Guipúzcoa