Celebrating National South Carolina Day: Utilizing Drones and Crowdsourced Data to Improve State Travel
Offering financial and time saving improvements, the South Carolina Department of Transportation [SCDOT] is leading in safety and forward thinking through their consistent efforts to progress infrastructure practices. The SCDOT have introduced the use of crowdsourcing data and aerial drone systems to utilize timely information and bring cost effective practices to the state.
To increase the quality and quantity of operations data, the Federal Highway Administration discusses the beneficial use of crowdsourcing data. By utilizing crowdsourced data agencies are increasing situational awareness, applying strategies that are safer, and more cost effective all while protecting the security of the data.
In May 2022 the Federal Highway Administrations (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) News Biweekly Newsletter shares SCDOTs new agreements that utilize crowdsourced data for their traveler information system and traffic management center software. The organization has used two new apps to provide real time updates and information. The 511 app and website provide real-time crowdsourcing data for traveler information. PalGuide is an app providing speed data and operator alerts for increased travel times. These travel time alerts allow for automatic updates to over a dozen SCDOT highway message signs with travel time information to two destinations each.
Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations was an EDC round five and six innovation. The FHWA promotes it as a system to gather multiple streams of real-time data to be integrated and applied in a variety of areas. Crowdsourcing improves operations for better traveler information, increases safety and reliability due to faster response times, and provides cost savings to agencies by reducing the need for installing and maintaining roadway sensors.
Unmanned Arial Systems [UAS]
In 2020 the SCDOT partnered with Clemson University to develop a personalized Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) flight simulator and proficiency exam to train staff and assist in providing education and employment opportunities. The program assists in the continued use and growth of UAS technology.
The FHWA named UAS as an EDC-5 Innovator to promote the use of the systems for increased safety, construction and maintenance work. The aerial systems provide automatic and remote, high-quality survey and data mapping for construction work or emergency response events. The systems can also assist standard practices such as routine construction inspection or bridge safety inspections.
Providing input and perspective after trail use from both Clemson students and SCDOT staff, the improved curriculum provides 40-hours of detailed education on UAS. Benefitting from the real-world application, the Clemson students received a direct view into the operations of the transportation agency and its staff, while the SCDOT received increased exposure and integration into the technology and applications used by the students.
The drone technology course is now available at Clemson University as a professional studies program. Available with the options of instructor-led, one-day in-person flight training or self-paced online learning, there are more opportunities for increased sustainability and safety than ever reported before.
Sources: FHWA, SCDOT, Clemson Drone