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Project Efficiency: Advantages of UAS Technology in Civil and Environmental Engineering
Proceedings of the 2019 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2019 Authors: Lawson J., Parrish J.


The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in civilian and non-military sectors has skyrocketed over the past several years with predictions of exponential demand for UAS and related services in the coming years. In this era of disruptive innovation, rapid advances in UAS technology along with implementation of the FAA's 2016 UAS guidelines have boosted the economic development landscape on multiple levels. More UAS and associated features are being produced by manufacturers than ever before, and remote pilot certifications are on the rise. Utilization of UAS technology in the environmental and engineering fields has gained momentum as the capabilities of UAS applications are becoming abundant and more site-specific.

What was once seen as too great of a risk to undertake is now considered a valuable investment by environmental and engineering firms. Professionals are increasingly employing certified remote pilots and creating their own UAS divisions. Improved data collection rates and accuracy, lower number of safety risks and costs, and numerous compatible data processing platforms are marked advantages that current UAS technologies allow. Further, UAS software is compatible with global positioning systems and can be manipulated to form 3D models and a surfeit of other outputs. These factors are just a few of the reasons UAS technology is preferred over traditional labor-intensive methods.

The versatility of UAS operations over water and unsafe, rugged terrain is ideal for enhancing and accelerating projects such as inspecting inlet and outfall structures at wastewater treatment facilities and detecting leachate leaks at solid waste facilities. A few other examples of areas benefitting from UAS technology include dam spillway condition assessments, erosion monitoring, and natural disaster evaluations involving flooding events. From the water resources standpoint, opportunities are boundless for how UAS technology has and will continue to benefit the environmental and engineering fields.

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