Drone Inspection of the Ledbetter Bridge in Paducah, KY



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In 2014, the Ledbetter Bridge in Paducah, Kentucky began to collapse, causing a potentially hazardous situation for motorists and water traffic. The fear of total collapse meant contractors and transportation officials could not safely inspect the bridge. KTC used an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to inspect the infrastructure of the bridge. KTC found two factors that contributed to the collapse: the bridge’s poor structural integrity and a heavy rainstorm that caused a landslide to work its way up to one bridge abutment, causing rotation in the first and second piers. Continual pier rotation would cause the girders to fall, resulting in the main truss of the bridge falling into the river. It was necessary to constantly monitor the main truss of the bridge so that river and road transportation officials would be alerted immediately after a collapse. KTC employed the Simplisafe security system to monitor the separation between the bridge approach and the abutment. Another heavy rainstorm on June 22, 2014 caused more soil movements, and it collapsed at 2:07 am, although the main truss remained intact. Three months later, the Ledbetter bridge was demolished in a controlled manner by implosion technology.