Ohio to test roadway surveillance drone near Columbus

Ohio's transportation department plans to use of drones to fill gaps in its visual coverage of freeways as agencies respond to roadway emergencies.
a drone

The Ohio Department of Transportation is testing a large unmanned drone to monitor traffic on a highway along a highway northwest of Columbus. 

The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved the state transportation department’s request to deploy a 20-pound Censys Sentaero aircraft along four miles of U.S. Highway 33 for traffic monitoring and incident management. With a wingspan just over seven feet, this is the first aircraft this size to be approved for surveillance operations and the second in the country approved for operations over people and traffic without a parachute, according to a press release. 

“This is only the beginning,” Rich Fox, director of the ODOT’s Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Center, said in the release. “We’re excited to test the potential benefits and leverage this special approval to continue integrating new [unmanned aircraft system] technology into agency operations.” 

ODOT operates more than 1,000 stationary traffic cameras across the state but is exploring the use of drones to provide visual coverage of areas without cameras in the event of a roadway emergency, the release said.


The FAA approval is valid for four years and will help integrate live drone footage into the ODOT’s Traffic Management Center. Testing these operations on one four-mile section of highway will help the department determine the benefit of replicating these operations across the state to aid the public and first responders, the release said.

“Drones can do a lot of things,” Fox said. “Depending on the aircraft, they can be equipped with object detection and analytics, which form a critical piece in improving safety on the roadway.”

Skylar Rispens

Written by Skylar Rispens

Skylar Rispens is a reporter for StateScoop and EdScoop. She previously worked as a reporter specializing in education coverage for daily and weekly newspapers across Montana, where she currently resides.

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