By Kelly Werthmann
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation is getting a high-tech bird’s eye view of traffic. As part of a Federal Aviation Administration approved test, CDOT, along with Denver-based company UAVu Flight Operations, is using a six-prop drone to check out road conditions.
“You can take these up to 400 feet and legally fly it and you can see 37 miles,” Dr. Andrew Palowitch, CEO of UAVu, told CBS4’s Jeff Todd.
Country music super star Tim McGraw was scheduled to perform at the Air Force Academy Saturday night and tens of thousands of cars were expected to pack the interstate in and around Colorado Springs.
CDOT took that as an opportunity to test the drone and software that allows them to monitor traffic. Using its camera and 30-times zoom, the unmanned aerial vehicle feeds back video in real-time to a cloud that CDOT and law enforcement can access.
“If there’s an accident we can also vector emergency vehicles very rapidly without people guessing where the actual accident is,” Palowitch said.
The drone is tethered to the ground where it’s powered by a generator. That essentially allows it to fly for an unlimited amount of time while also keeping the drone in a safe flying zone.
“So we’re never flying over traffic, never flying over schools, never flying over anything that can be of any risk to personnel,” an UAVu engineer told CBS4.
Instead of the stationary cameras mounted on poles that CDOT already uses across the state, or expensive helicopter flights, experts say drones would provide more accurate and cost effective traffic monitoring.
“And anytime there’s an accident or emergency or even road repair, they can just pop up, take pictures, and manage the traffic situation,” Palowitch said.
It’s unclear when CDOT will decide if it will continue using the drone program.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.