The Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) yesterday said that next year it would start using uncrewed aerial vehicles and other advanced technologies to maintain highways and inspect disaster-stricken areas.
DGH construction crew tasked with assessing damage in disaster zones could access the areas only on foot if the areas could not be reached by motor vehicles, DGH deputy chief engineer Chen Chin-fa (陳進發) said.
Crew had to walk while recording their findings, Chen said, adding that they can walk about 2.5kph on average.
Assessments took about two to three days to complete and the crews faced risks of landslides or aftershocks, he said.
The DGH in June last year started using drones and uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) to assess road damage caused by natural disasters, including a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that hit Hualien County on Feb. 6, Chen said.
“The drones can move at a speed of 108 kilometers per hour. They can climb in the sky and allow us to observe changes in topography from 300m above the ground, which is something we could never do in the past,” Chen said.
The drones are a component of UAS, which also includes a ground control station with a pilot, communication systems and support equipment, Chen added.
Since last year, the agency has used drones or UAS to inspect the Yangjin Highway (Highway No. 2A), the Northern Cross-Island Highway (Highway No. 7), the Central Cross-Island Highway (Highway No. 8), the Suhua Highway, the South Link Highway (Highway No. 9), the Southern Cross-Island Highway (Highway No. 20) and the New Central Cross-Island Highway (Highway No. 21), he said.
The drones covered a total distance of 320km, Chen said, adding that the DGH dispatched drones of different sizes to conduct inspections, depending on the weather and other factors.
The agency yesterday gave a demonstration on Alishan to show reporters how it uses the drones to inspect highways.
The drones, which are equipped with cameras, can automatically fly on a course set by the construction crew, who can view topographical changes on large screens, it said.
The agency can more accurately assess damage to roadside slopes by comparing the photographs taken by drones with those taken by the Central Geological Survey and turning them into 3D images, Chen said.
As the drones have greatly increased the efficiency of road inspections, the agency would start using them in the maintenance of all the highways under its jurisdiction, the DGH said.
The agency has also installed rockfall alert systems in sections of highways with high-risk slopes to alert the agency’s roadside surveillance system and warn drivers of rockfalls, it said.
The agency has identified 43 high-risk roadside slopes and would assess whether more rockfall alert systems are needed, it added.
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