Local company using drones to check Pittsburgh bridges for damage, deterioration

Pittsburgh, Pa. — City officials are stressing the importance of the safety of bridges and a local company is using drones to get a better look at area bridges to identify potential weak spots.

As Aeras’s drone goes up over the 40th Street Bridge in Millvale, it has one mission: to photograph every centimeter of the bridge.

“What were able to do by scanning these bridges is provide thousands of photos,” Aeras Co-Founder Justin Melanson said. “About 5 hours later you have a very precise high quality 3D model of the bridge.”

When it comes to bridge inspection, inspectors use machines to access portions of bridges to check for defects like rust and cracks.

Challenges like staffing, traffic control, access and cost can make inspections like this difficult.

Melanson says the drone, on the other hand, helps inspectors to do their job faster.

To get a 3D image of the bridge with the drone, Melanson says it can take 40 minutes to three hours.

He also says the drone could photograph every bridge in the city of Pittsburgh in less than a month.

“If it’s taken every year and you have an issue you can say ‘Oh, last year there was no problem and this year I see rust or there’s movement,” Melanson said. “Every year if you’re scanning a bridge, you can see the deterioration.”

Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Conner says the task force he’s creating to prioritize bridges in need of repair has received calls from many companies wanting to help. They will be utilizing a variety of different technologies to ensure bridges are safe.

Kayla Courvell

Kayla Courvell

I was born and raised in a small town just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and decided as a child I was going to be a news reporter.