Drone startup Skydio today announced the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) statewide approval to fly Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight to inspect bridges.

Skydio, which describes the waiver as the first of its kind, says the NCDOT will be able to conduct maintenance activities without the use of visual observers like trained pilots or staff.A recent study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials found that taxpayer cost per bridge inspection can be reduced 75% by switching from traditional methods to drones.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation found that using drones for bridge inspection offsets some or all of the costs, depending on the bridge configuration and location, with a trial of drone-assisted inspections saving an average of 40% over traditional methods and providing ostensibly superior data and reporting.

Going forward, the NCDOT’s inspectors can send Skydio 2 drones to inspect critical structures below bridges in North Carolina instead of conducting rappels or using “snooper trucks.” In a typical year, NCDOT employees regularly canvass over 13,500 bridges.

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