McKenzie County gravel-road drones take flight

Published: May. 8, 2020 at 5:24 PM CDT
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A drone company hired to evaluate gravel road conditions for McKenzie County has just started to take flight. Four pilots will be stationed at iSight RPV Services’ new location in Watford City during the summer, helping the county better determine driving conditions during heavy-use and rain events.

Pilots fly gas-powered drones that help them create a baseline map for 2,200 miles of gravel roads. After takeoff, the unmanned aircraft systems take pictures every 90 feet.

Watford City Isight RPV Services Chief Pilot and Manager Adam Overvold said: “From there, we’ll stitch them in a software back at the office. From there we can give an Orth mosaic and a digital surface model, and you can tell the curvature of the road, and the condition of it without driving down it.”

They’ll fly drones over gravel roads when it rains to more accurately assess when certain areas should be shut down.

Overvold added, “It helps everyone who lives in the area, and then it helps all the industries in the area just to stay working longer.”

Flights typically last an hour, and the FAA regulations require the operator to be always have visual contact with the drones. The pilots want to work with the state to get that changed.

Watford City Isight RPV Services Pilot and Safety Director Blake Prozinski stated, “Once they approve us to go beyond visual line of site where we’re not able to see the drone, then we’ll be able to accomplish a lot more; instead of us driving behind it, being restricted by us travelling.”

Their baseline mapping flights should be complete by next week.

The iSight team plans on working with the county until the end of summer, but if they get enough work from other companies, they want to stay in Watford City permanently.