Michael Baker International, a global leader in engineering, planning and consulting services, recently marked a significant milestone for the aviation industry as it partnered with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to use Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to inspect runway conditions. The mission was the first of its kind to use drones on the airfield of an international airport in the United States during daily airport operations.
Michael Baker is partnering with ATL on a pavement evaluation project and identified an opportunity for the innovative use of UAS to collect information on the condition of the runway pavement. This method provides a large amount of data for the teams to analyze and can help document the runway for future rehabilitation and improvement decisions. It also presents a time and cost savings for the airport as it would take less than half the time to complete compared to the traditional approach of manually photographing the physical condition of the runway, which can take more than four hours.
“Michael Baker and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have had a strong relationship for more than 14 years, collaborating on innovative and effective projects,” said Quintin Watkins, aviation program manager in Michael Baker’s Norcross, Ga., office. “This was a great opportunity for our experts in geographic information systems to assist the airport with a unique challenge. The information we successfully gathered during this flight will give the airport valuable insight on the ongoing safety and maintenance of the airfield. We hope to find ways to conduct similar missions with the airport in the future.”
To plan for the project, Michael Baker obtained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct UAS operations in Class B airspace at ATL. The FAA waiver is active for four months and requires the airport to be in a west flow condition, to establish two-way radio contact and to close the runway at the time of the flight.
During this and future missions, the team can generate contours, orthomosiac imagery, RGB 3-D textured mesh and a digital terrain model (DTM). This data can then be analyzed by the Michael Baker and airport teams using engineering software such as Autodesk, ESRI and Bentley, and can help determine future needs to improve and maintain the runway conditions.
Earlier this year, ATL also conducted a drone flight over its parking deck to identify areas for reconstruction. ATL, known as the world’s busiest airport, serves more than 104 million passengers annually and offers nonstop service to more than 150 domestic and nearly 70 international destinations.
To learn more visit www.mbakerintl.com.