Bridge Inspection Drones – Can They Cut Down Costs and Improve Efficiency?

Today we have a very special article for you guys! It’s not the usual brand of topics that include various models that can be used for plenty of different tasks. Nope! Today, we are going to be focusing on just one particular segment. More precisely – one particular niche which can greatly benefit from the usage of drones.

As the title implies, we are talking about drones for bridge inspection, an industry that is craving for innovations… and the might’ve just got a huge one in the form of small unmanned vehicles… or how everyone likes to call them – drones!

TABLE: Drones for bridge inspection :

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How can drones help bridge inspection?

Drones can prove to be a valuable asset of bridge inspection companies and many of them have just noticed that. Thus, they’re experimenting with different methods and using them for different tasks. But, whatever might be the case, one thing is certain – drones can cut down costs big time! From first data collection to area inspection and even close up images of potentially troubling areas, drones can do it all… and with style!


Not to mention they are insanely easy to operate and have minimal operating costs. Both of these traits are making them a hot topic in this industry, leading to more and more companies investing in them. Soon enough, we’ll see huge flocks of drones inspecting (and possibly even repairing) our bridges… Mark my words!


Best bridge inspection drones :

Now that the introductory section is done and dealt with, it is time to move onto the list of 5 best drones for a roof inspection.

Yuneec Typhoon H Novi

drone bridge inspection

5. Yuneec Typhoon H

The 5th spot of this list goes to a wonderful high-end drone made by Yuneec. It’s a very popular company that deals mostly in premium drones but has a few mid-tier ones as well as a selfie drone called Breeze. They’ve had a massive share of success recently and are looking like they’re just getting started. So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at their Typhoon H model and see what’s it all about!

I’d like to start off with this birdie’s safety features since it sports truly remarkable ones. First off, we have Intel RealSense obstacle avoidance technology which sweeps the floor with all other competitors. This is a truly comprehensive OA system that effectively detects and avoids any kind of obstacle that gets in the way of your drone. Additionally, Typhoon H also comes with a 5-motor failsafe feature which, you’ve guessed it, allows the drone to safely land even with 1 of its motors destroyed mid-flight. In fact, Yuneec Typhoon H can even land with 2 dead motors, but that all depends on their respective locations.

Continuing onward, Yuneec Typhoon H comes with an ST16 controller with an integrated 7-inch Android-powered touchscreen used for FPV among other things. When it comes to the features, this little fella sports GPS (who would’ve guessed, eh?), 4K camera and a total of 8 supporting smart flight modes that will provide a solid dose of versatility. It’s equipped with a 4K camera on its own dedicated gimbal and can fly as long as 25 minutes per charge. And finally, the operating range of Yuneec Typhoon H goes anywhere from 1 to 1.5 kilometers which aren’t half bad considering all other specifications and its relatively affordable price tag.


Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Novi

4. Autel Robotics X-Star Premium

When it comes to underrated drones for bridge inspections, I’d say Autel Robotics X-Star Premium is the first one worth mentioning. Even though it’s been selling quite good in recent months, the numbers are still nowhere near the actual worth of this drone… and my oh my, this birdie is a proper beast! Don’t mistake it for Autel Robotics X-Star though, as the Premium version has almost double the range and other traits which make it far superior.

Starting off with the imaging solution, you will be happy to know this birdie incorporates a 4K camera mounted on a 3-axis gimbal. This will, needless to say, provide exceptional aerial photography results which would put to shame most other drones usually used for bridge inspections. When it comes to flight stability, they don’t come better than this beauty… and this is also of crucial importance for the quality of data collected for bridge inspection tasks. Furthermore, it’s also noteworthy to add support for both GPS and GLONASS which will give it pinpoint precision no matter where you are located.

In terms of specifications, here is how Autel Robotics X-Star Premium drone bridge inspection stands: Operating range is exceptional, ranging up to 2 kilometers in optimal conditions; airtime is good as well, thanks to the included 14.8V 4900mAh LiPo battery. The controller is fairly intuitive and you should not have any problems with controlling this drone however you want. All things considered, if you’re looking for a drone that provides with great price/performance ratio and unique experience, then look no further than Autel Robotics X-Star Premium!


3. Yuneec Tornado H920

Here we have another drone made by Yuneec, and this one is actually better than Typhoon H which we featured on the last spot. Now, we are going to take a closer look at Yuneec Tornado H920, a professional-grade hexacopter that has powerful hardware and great torque/weight ratio which allows it to carry heavy payloads. Furthermore, design (or should I say build quality) improvement is present as well, making up for a completely worry-free experience time and time again. So, for all of you who want a commercial-grade hexacopter to do their work, it’s time to give Yuneec Tornado H920 an in-depth look.

The first thing you should know about Yuneec Tornado H920 is its ridiculously durable carbon fiber body. Not only is it durable but it’s lightweight as well, aiding to power efficiency and sheer performance. Specifications-wise, Tornado H920 isn’t that better than Typhoon H… However, it provides its users with better flight stability and a comprehensive ST24 transmitter that offers a wide array of functions. The photography solution has received an upgrade too. You’re looking at Panasonic GH4 DSLR camera that’s mounted on its dedicated 3-axis gimbal for ultimate image stabilization.

When it comes to the features, Yuneec Tornado H920 sports retractable landing gear which will be of great help during bridge inspection missions. You see, when the landing gears are retracted, they are not getting in camera’s way, meaning Tornado H920 can collect data in a 360-fashion. Last but not least, this birdie incorporates solid specifications too. With up to 1.5 kilometers of range and approximately 22 to 24 minutes of flight time, it becomes clear that Yuneec Tornado H920 is a great option for all bridge inspection companies.


DJI Mavic Pro Novi

2. DJI Mavic Pro

If a size does not mean everything to you, then DJI Mavic Pro is probably the drone you are looking for. We are talking about an incredibly small model here (much smaller than all others featured on this list) which doesn’t have any compromises in terms of performance. How is that possible? Well, ask the magicians over at DJI…

Moving forward, I would like to add a few words on its size. You see, not only are we talking about an extremely small drone here but it is also foldable too. This means that, when you are done using it, you can simply fold its arms towards its body and it will casually fit into any type of backpack. So, once again, if you’re looking for something small that won’t take away too much space but you still want top tier performance, DJI Mavic Pro is the way to go. But what sort of performance can such a small drone provide? Well, that’s exactly what you can find out by reading the paragraph directly below this one!

In terms of performance, there aren’t too many drones superior to DJI Mavic Pro. In fact, I doubt there’s a single drone in this price range that has the same or better performance than DJI Mavic Pro. Why is that so? Well, that’s because this birdie can stay up in the air for an amazing 27 minutes while recording in crystal clear 4K resolution. Furthermore, it’s also noteworthy to mention DJI’s OcuSync technology which provides, believe it or not, up to 7 kilometers of range on DJI Mavic Pro. Quite impressive, right? On top of all that, there are also numerous autonomous flight modes as well as safety features including auto land and failsafe return to home. Last but not least, DJI Mavic Pro offers an unparalleled imaging solution thanks to its 4K-ready camera with its own integrated 3-axis gimbal. Wicked, huh?!


DJI Inspire 2 Novi

1. DJI Inspire 2

DJI Mavic Pro is a beast of a model and everything stated above confirms just that… but it’s still not the best DJI model out there. You see, there’s a completely different type of machine that isn’t nearly as travel-friendly as the Mavic Pro. It goes by the name of Inspire 2 and it is meant for professional tasks and unparalleled performance no matter the occasion. However, casual users (and users who aren’t planning on using it for commercial purposes) will be immediately scared away by its price which goes for several thousand dollars, depending on which particular package you go for.

While we’re at packages, it’s also noteworthy to add that the best DJI Inspire 2 bundle is definitely the one which includes Zenmuse X5S combo. Needless to say, this gimbal/image photography solution boasts with state of the art technology that provides marvelous results. So, as far as bridge inspection is concerned, DJI Inspire 2 will do its job without any issues. With several smart flight features, comprehensive obstacle avoidance software and great specifications, there is nothing stopping this beauty of a drone.

If you want more precise numbers, you’ll be amazed at what this birdie has to offer. Starting off with its range, DJI Inspire 2 can reach amazing 7 kilometers away from its controller. That’s, of course, measured in ideal conditions. In real-life scenarios, you are looking at roughly 5 to 6 kilometers which is still praiseworthy. However, I doubt you’ll ever come close to its edge as bridge inspection doesn’t require long-range drones.

Flight time is nothing short of brilliant either. Due to its powerful and intelligent LiPo batteries equipped with fast charging technology, DJI Inspire 2 can keep flying anywhere from 25 to 27 minutes. If that’s not enough for you to do all that drone bridge inspection, then I don’t know what is…

Which drones are being used for bridge inspection?

As far as professional bridge inspection companies are concerned, you would be surprised at their choice of drones. They usually don’t like going for mainstream models such as the ones described below. Instead, they opt for barely known models that are (in most cases) built specifically for the task at hand. Nowadays, most bridge inspection companies are using drones such as SenseFly Albris and Aeryon SkyRanger, which do the job wonderfully.

However, there are plenty of other (commercially available) that are just as good as these 2. They share the same array of traits making them pretty viable for all sorts of inspection tasks, including bridges. With that said, let’s just go through a few more important sections before showing you the full list of best commercially available drones for bridge inspection.


How does the bridge inspection process (with drones) look like?

bridge inspection drone

When a bridge is selected for inspection and possible repairmen, bridge inspection companies are offering their proposals in the hope they’ll get the gig. When the selection process is done and a certain company gets the task, they’re immediately moving onto the second step… and that’s the initial data collection.

During this process, drones can be of great help. In fact, I reckon that drones will keep getting improvements in the foreseeable future that will make them even better at this task. But, what are they supposed to do during the initial data collection phase?

Well, it’s rather simple. Drones are used to get to hard-to-reach places in order to collect valuable data in the form of still images, infrared images, radiometric data, 3D mapping of the bridge and much more.

After the initial data has been collected, it is rushed to analysis where experts will confirm which portions of the bridge need imminent repairs. To make the right decisions, drones often do data collecting several more times, focusing on areas emphasized by the experts.

Conventional methods would require a lot of man-hours and mobilization of specialized personnel for rope inspections. Even though this process is not nearly as dangerous as it was in the last century, there are still unfortunate casualties. With drones, however, the worst thing that could happen is the machine breaking mid-flight and landing into water… but I’m sure you’ll agree that’s nowhere near as catastrophic as a human casualty.


Drone insurance

Drone insurance is a real thing and you should definitely check it out! There are plenty of options available and Google can really be your best buddy when it comes to this. Furthermore, in addition to regular yearly or monthly insurance plans, there are insurance companies that allow you to get a plan which focuses on just one task spreading across several days.

Needless to say, this is a cost-effective insurance method and is definitely worth checking out. In addition to a worry-free flying which these insurance plans provide, you will also be able to land a lot more gigs than you would without one. This is because clients usually demand drone insurance plans for outsourced drone jobs which is, in fact, one of the reasons why the drone insurance niche is flourishing at the moment.

However, not a lot of people know about the benefits of drone insurance. As a matter of fact, that niche has just started growing and has set up high standards at the very beginning. With that said, it’s surprising to see such a small fraction of commercial drone pilots purchasing insurance plans. Although, the numbers are growing rapidly and it’s just a matter of time before they become an absolute must before any drone-related jobs.



That’s it, guys! With DJI Inspire 2, I’m afraid that’s it as far as superb bridge inspection drones are concerned. While I could’ve listed a couple of other models such as DJI Phantom 4 Pro or Yuneec Q500, I decided to keep the list short with 5 models. Plus, as far as price/performance ratio goes, I’d say these 5 are the best ones out of the bunch.

With that said, I would like to thank you for reading this article and sincerely hope it shed some light on the topic.

Vito Dronelli @DronesGlobe

Anthony Turner