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UC researchers team up with ODOT to study traffic with drones

Posted at 4:30 AM, Jul 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-11 07:05:36-04

CINCINNATI -- The University of Cincinnati is partnering with the Ohio Department of Transportation to improve traffic in Cincinnati, and they're using drones to do it.

Virtual 3-D images will be visible in Cincinnati or elsewhere with hololens headsets. 

"They can collaborate on what it is that's going on in a virtual, three-dimensional world, which is just amazing," Drive Ohio director Fred Judson said.

Images created by the UC drone experts at the College of Engineering and Applied Science are part of research for ODOT to study traffic and access real-time images.

"Then we can push it to anywhere in the state all in real time," Judson said.

The drones can capture traffic flow and speed. Computers then highlight trucks in green and cars in blue.

"Those are some of the parameters the Department of Transportation uses for making plans like new infrastructure, building new infrastructure," said associate professor Manis Kumar.

Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at Clifton, near the UC campus, is being studied, as is the Interstate 75 Mitchell interchange. Drones could also be used to inspect structures like the Brent Spence Bridge and Western Hills Viaduct.

"We'll have the inspector standing next to us," Judson said, "We'll send the aircraft out and he'll be able to control camera and communicate with the pilot and tell the pilot exactly what it is that he needs to see.”

Right now, they only fly one drone at a time, but the hope is that future technology will allow the team to fly multiple drones simultaneously.

"In a more safe and robust manor, you can finish a mission while you have multiple drones working close proximity," Kumar said. 

When complete, the research will help develop standard practices statewide. Several more areas will be studied as part of the research. However, some will need waivers from the Federal Aviation Administration because of the proximity to the airport.