Sydney Harbour Bridge

An Australian-first artificial intelligence (AI) enabled drone trial is set to revolutionise the way essential inspection work is carried out on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Over the past six years, Transport for NSW has collaborated with major players in the field of autonomous and artificial intelligent drones, including the CSIRO, Emesent and Skydio.

Transport for NSW’s specialist digital engineers recently completed a three-week trial, putting new AI technology into action under the southern part of the Harbour Bridge from Dawes Point Park. Trials were also carried out at Gladesville Bridge over Parramatta River, and at other bridges in regional New South Wales.

New South Wales Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Sam Farraway, said the new fleet of drones can access hard-to-reach areas with ease, capturing the structure up close in 4K high-resolution images, and rendering three-dimensional maps of their surroundings.

“Transport for NSW is responsible for maintaining thousands of kilometres of roadway and more than 6000 bridges across the state and is always looking at ways to make the maintenance process safer, less disruptive, more efficient and more cost effective,” Mr Farraway said.

“This technology has the potential to play an important role in rapidly assessing the structure of our regional bridges and road networks, following natural disasters.”

More than twenty drone pilots have been trained so far, with the aim of rolling this technology out permanently.

Transport for NSW has also added water-resistant drones to its fleet, allowing maintenance crews to inspect the network in the rain and structures underwater. 

New South Wales Minister for Metropolitan Roads, Natalie Ward, said using the best technology available will ensure bridges across the state’s road network are maintained to the highest standard.

“We are thrilled to be embracing modern technology to ensure infrastructure like our iconic 90-year-old Sydney Harbour Bridge is preserved for this generation and the next,” Mrs Ward said.

“This new trial of cutting-edge AI backed technology is another step towards making sure our bridges and road network are maintained to the highest standards.

“The sky is the limit when it comes to this technology. It is a game-changer for our preventative maintenance inspections, which would normally take months to complete, but can now be undertaken in less than half the time.”

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