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The North Dakota Department of Transportation is helping fund a range of autonomous systems research aimed at helping the agency develop and maintain the state’s transportation system.

[Above photo by the North Dakota DOT]

The University of North Dakota or UND will lead the Transportation Technology Research Initiative in conjunction with the North Dakota DOT, focusing on three areas: structures, materials, and unmanned aerial systems – also known as UAS or drones.

Bill Panos. Photo by the North Dakota DOT.

“Our goal is to build a partnership with the university that will enhance our state’s transportation system and provide students a unique opportunity to develop practical skills for the future,” explained Bill Panos, director of the North Dakota DOT, in a statement.

UND added that while this initiative is North Dakota-focused, its findings would benefit localities, regions, and states, and should have national implications as well.

One of the immediate applications this joint research effort expects to explore is using drones to perform detailed inspections of bridges without having to shut down lanes of traffic. This has big implications for enhancing safety while reducing and possibly eliminating annoying traffic delays, North Dakota DOT noted.

Photo by the North Dakota DOT

Other activities the UND/North Dakota DOT team may tackle include developing a corridor between Grand Forks and Fargo to test advancements in road and driver safety, working to mitigate wildlife crossing hazards through structural and material design, and reducing costs of major highway construction projects by developing reusable precast concrete to create highway crossovers.

“This is a win-win partnership,” emphasized Daba Gedafa, chair and associate professor of civil engineering at UND, who will serve as the initiative’s interim director.

“The Initiative will help UND recruit, retain and train students who have the skillset for the 21st century economy and provide a competitive advantage for real-world jobs in a wide range of professional settings,” he added.

editor@aashto.org

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