Protecting transportation infrastructure using Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Pipelines in the Arctic contend with a variety of issues affecting their construction and long-term operation. Thawing permafrost and creeping frozen debris lobes lead to unstable terrain, while long, linear pipeline footprints and rough wilderness environments hamper efforts to identify maintenance issues.

Given the variety of geotechnical challenges faced by pipeline operators, it is important to look toward new approaches for monitoring and early detection of cracks or other problems that can occur over many miles of unattended pipeline.

Our research, funded by the US Department of Transportation, investigates how unmanned aircraft systems could be used to monitor critical pipeline corridors. Its goals are to:

  • Determine best practices for the persistent surveillance of critical pipeline infrastructure
  • Develop a proactive decision system for engineers

As a part of this research, we continue to evaluate a variety of unmanned aircraft systems.

Organizations involved in the research include SNAP, which leads the effort, as well as the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI). SNAP is part of the International Arctic Research Center (IARC).

UAS software developers recognized for innovation

(October 2014) ArcticFire, a Fairbanks software development company, won a $10,000 prize at the 2014 UAF Arctic Innovation Awards for Routinely, software that simplifies the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Keith Cunningham, principal investigator for this project, is Founding Advisor for ArcticFire, the Fairbanks company that developed the software.

Routinely lets users control their drones and their payloads with a phone, laptop or tablet. The prototype and concepts presented at the Arctic Innovation Awards are the core of this product, and will be integral to this project.