In India over the last few years, the use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) also known as drones have exploded. This has caused a need to evaluate the air traffic control system and determine how to integrate this new form of aviation within close proximity of manned aircraft operating at low altitudes.
For airports, low-altitude aerial photography can provide a multitude of benefits beyond the obvious Public Relations opportunities. Traditional aerial photography aircraft have altitude restrictions of around 1000 feet above obstacles, while drones have the ability to capture images at much lower altitudes with extremely high detail, resulting in greater clarity and detail.
A number of engineering companies have made progress using drones to create detailed pavement surveys for airport Pavement Management Programs. To that end, drone photos can also be combined with airport Geographic Information System (GIS) programs to create realistic, 3D maps of airport properties.
The low-altitude, high-definition images captured by drones can be of immense value for airport maintenance personnel seeking to document pavement discrepancies and establish repair programs, or even for airport planners who need to track the condition of particular surfaces in order to decide when a replacement is necessary.
Drones have also been extremely useful during airport construction projects. They can be used to collect land survey information before a project begins and help to monitor and document the progress of a project during construction phases. Drone photos can help engineers track project timelines and identify problem areas that don’t meet project specifications or standards.
One of the more interesting uses of drones within the airport environment concerns the issue of wildlife hazard mitigation. Since the responsibility and liability for resolving wildlife threats in the immediate vicinity of the airport rests with the airport operator, it is important to have a diverse set of wildlife control tools. Drones have been shown to be particularly effective with passive wildlife mitigation, such as scouting ponds, grasslands, or even woods that are on airport property.
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