New Mexico State University has been selected to lead the first dam inspection using an unmanned aircraft system for the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).

The University will work with USBR staff to develop the concept of operations, address safety requirements, select the unmanned aircraft system and appropriate sensors, validate flight procedures and perform the inspection of Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico.

The research project will determine the applicability of unmanned aircraft systems as a tool for infrastructure inspection using light detection and ranging (LIDAR), infrared (IR), photogrammetry and HD video. It will help USBR determine potential issues with the dams’ infrastructure including concrete cracks, spalls and other subsurface defects including moisture where it should not be, and any erosion or other topographical changes to the dam and spillway.

The flight is expected take place in the next couple of months.

USBR’s Research and Development Program are funding this project, providing $35,000.