Scenic view of Beartooth Pass, Montana

Montana's diverse terrain and weather create unique problems for MDT Maintenance crews. Hazardous areas need to be monitored to assess risks such as avalanche and rock-slide sites. MDT Maintenance and MDT Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program would like to explore a portable, fully automated drone solution nicknamed ‘Drone in a Box’. This drone would monitor and or map hazardous sites remotely to reduce crew exposure and assess potential dangers to the traveling public.

The Drone in a Box concept has been around for over a decade but only recently have we began seeing commercially available products. Most Drone in a Box solutions come with an untethered drone and operates remotely using a set of preprogrammed instructions telling the drone when to take-off, what flight path to follow, and when & where to land. Data collected during these operations is able to be accessed remotely, with the option to live stream the data in real-time. MDT Maintenance and MDT UAS Program management propose to deploy a Drone in a Box at one (or more) MDT locations where avalanche danger is common to monitor and map snow-pack over time.

This research would propose to answer the following questions: 1) Is a Drone in a Box solution a cost effective and safer alternative to having maintenance crews physically inspect those areas? 2) Can the Drone in a Box solution be a reliable tool to collect the actionable data MDT needs to make accurate decisions? 3) Can mapping snow pack with a Drone in a Box solution in avalanche prone area's help predict occurrences to better prepare for incidents? 4) Can a Drone in a Box solution be an effective asset in assessing flooding issues during spring runoff?

Proposed: Topic Statement
Project Overview

For more information, contact Vaneza Callejas, 802-546-0217.