Minister for metropolitan Roads Natalie Ward said: “We are thrilled to be embracing modern technology to ensure infrastructure like our iconic 90-year-old Sydney Harbour Bridge is preserved for this generation and the next. This new trial of cutting-edge AI-backed technology is another step towards making sure our bridges and road network are maintained to the highest standards.
“The sky’s the limit when it comes to this technology. It is a game-changer for our preventative maintenance inspections, which would normally take months to complete, but can now be undertaken in less than half the time.”
Transport for NSW recently completed a three-week trial, putting the new technology into action under the southern part of the Harbour Bridge from Dawes Point Park. Trials were also carried out at Gladesville Bridge over Parramatta River and at other bridges in regional NSW.
Minister for regional transport and roads Sam Farraway said the new fleet of drones can access hard-to-reach areas with ease, capturing the structure up close in high-resolution images, and rendering three-dimensional maps of their surroundings.
“Transport for NSW is responsible for maintaining thousands of kilometres of roadway and more than 6,000 bridges across the state and is always looking at ways to make the maintenance process safer, less disruptive, more efficient and more cost effective,” he said. “This technology has the potential to play an important role in rapidly assessing the structure of our regional bridges and road networks following natural disasters.”
More than twenty drone pilots have been trained so far, with the goal of seeing the technology rolled out permanently.
Transport for NSW has also added water-resistant drones to the fleet, tested in Parramatta, allowing maintenance crews to inspect the network in the rain and structures underwater.
It said that, over the past six years, it has collaborated with major players in the field of autonomous and AI drones, including the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Emesent and Skydio. Drones are an integral part of the Future Transport Technology Roadmap 2021-2024, providing a blueprint for how Transport for NSW is using technology and innovation to improve the state’s transport network.