8 Ways Commercial Trucking Companies Can Use Drone Data

by Jan 23, 2021Transportation


Although commercial trucking accidents are complex events, drone technology provides real-time data so transportation and logistics professionals can spot and warn drivers about potential road hazards and dangerous conditions. Although driver error, impairment and weather conditions will always contribute to commercial trucking accidents, harnessing drone technology empowers drivers to respond and react, mitigating some risk factors that lead to highway fatalities. 

Despite Improvements in Crash Numbers Overall, Semi-Truck Related Deaths Have Increased

The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration’s 2017 Fatality Analysis Reporting System showed a 4.9 percent increase in large-truck-related fatalities. In 2018, the same report reflected another increase in truck related deaths, albeit smaller, at 0.9 percent.

One reason is that despite safety advancements in passenger cars, when these vehicles collide with large trucks carrying heavier loads on crowded interstates, an automatic braking system or improved airbag coverage do little to prevent fatalities. 

Commercial Trucks are Carrying More Freight Than Ever Before

In 2019 commercial truck transport carried nearly 2/3 or 71.5% of Domestic freight by tonnage, a staggering 11.84 Billion tons. To put this in perspective, consider the max allowable Gross  Vehicle Weight is 80,000 pounds.  

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) projects a 44% increase in freight tonnage transported via commercial trucking by 2045. If this increase in freight tonnage was spread out throughout our nation’s highways, the danger would not be nearly as high. However, there are highway bottlenecks that account for the majority of accidents. 

Commercial Trucking and Dangerous Bottlenecks in Urban Areas

The crowded highways around and through Chicago are one example. Freight shipped by truck accounted for 76% of total freight tonnage and 71% of total freight value in Chicago in 2016. Based on current trends, the bottleneck at I-290 and I-90/I-94 in Chicago Metro will only worsen over the next 20 years. 

Despite the geographic location of Chicago’s bottleneck, located within 20 miles of an International airport, low altitude unmanned aerial vehicles may offer a cost effective, efficient forward position with an aerial perspective. 

8 Ways Drone Technology Helps Commercial Transportation and Logistics Managers 

1. Drones can capture hundreds of images in a single flight

Compare how much safer this approach is compared to cameras mounted on highway infrastructure or on moving vehicles. “Drones could keep workers safer because they won’t be going into traffic or hanging off a bridge,” said Javier Irizarry, director of the CONECTech Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

2. Drones Have a Better Perspective than Fixed Cameras

Low altitude drone images can be taken at Nadir (directly overhead), as panoramas, and at varying angles of degrees above ground level (AGL) such as 30 degrees, 60 degrees, etc.

3. Drone Data Can Easily Be Converted to Georeferenced Image Files

The internal coordinates of an aerial drone phone can tied to a geographic coordinate system for making maps.

4. Drones Cost Less to Operate than Other Data Collection Methods

Using drone technology is a more cost effective way to collect data when compared to other methods. The rough cost to hire a used helicopter with a camera is $250,000 (plus fuel and maintenance). Compare this to the cost of high-end drone with a camera at $25,000-$35,000. This cost will be even less if the client does not need thermal, Lidar or bathymetric capabilities. 

5. Autonomy of Drones Makes It Easier to Capture Data and Images

Drones can be set to fly autonomously, and some have advanced Artificial Intelligence. This makes it much easier for pilots to capture images and data since they are not performing two tasks simultaneously. 

6. Drone programs can be easily scaled

(Consider the combination of autonomous unmanned aerial and well trained teams. Drones can collect valuable data for an entire fleet of vehicles without having to add or modify the equipment on each vehicle in the fleet. Since this involves less people power, expanded drone use can be implemented quickly.  

7. Drone Data Can Easily Be Shared

Drone data can be streamed and shared as PDF in real or near real time with multiple parties. 

8. Drone Data Can Be Used for Analysis and Planning

Using GIS and photogrammetry software, drone data can be turned into 2d maps and 3d models for analysis and planning. When logistics and safety managers view the drone data in this way, they can envision new or modified routes for their fleets. The raw data only becomes valuable when it is communicated in a way that other agencies can view and interpret it. There may be instances where developers and public agencies will need this drone data to make decisions in the future. 

Why Don’t Commercial Transportation Companies Use Existing Drone Data?

While the data collected by federal agencies and law enforcement is good for a big picture analysis of our nation’s roadways, individual trucking companies shouldn’t rely on third party data as a sufficient substitute for collecting their own data. It’s the commercial trucking company that has to deal with rising insurance costs and the fallout from more accidents and deaths.

Raven’s Vue Drone Services Improve Your Fleet’s Safety and Save Money

Raven’s Vue professional UAV services can assist commercial trucking companies with real time, highly scalable data to prepare for and respond to road conditions, slowdowns and accidents. Commercial transportation companies need to safely deliver goods in a way that keeps insurance costs from skyrocketing. If your company would like to discuss how Raven’s Vue drone services can improve safety and your bottom line, please call us at (720) 757-0251.