Department of Transportation using drones for flood emergencies

Published: Mar. 11, 2020 at 6:18 PM CDT
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The Department of Transportation is taking to the sky to keep an eye out for potential spring flooding in North Dakota.

The DOT is training its employees to use drones like this one to help in emergency situations, should places like right here in Fox Island flood this spring.

The Department of Transportation is pairing with Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site (NPUASTS) to take to the skies.

"We're here to train on policy, implement proper flight procedures, we're preparing them to use their parachute and the fun part-- we're flight training," said NPUASTS Operations Lead Danielle Miller.

Employees will use drones to evaluate water levels on highways, determine road conditions, assess bridges and inform motorists during flood season. But first, the DOT needs to practice.

"Everyone kind of knows their skills and their duties. With that, you don't have miscommunication," said DOT Strategy and Innovation Director Russ Buchholz.

The department will have 12 drones ready to go this spring.

"In emergency events, such as flooding, as well as infrastructure inspections -- so, we're talking bridges, ice jams, those type of things -- we're ready to deploy on a moments notice through the whole state," said Buchholz.

Last year, the DOT became the first in the nation to get a waiver to perform drone operations over people.

The DOT's flood preparations don't stop at drones. Employees are positioning equipment and have their airplane on standby for emergencies.