Saving lives and saving money are the main goals of six N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) grants totaling more than $862,000 received by faculty in East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology.

The grants range from $70,000 to $217,432 and vary in scope, from how pedestrians and bicyclists are counted to how bridges are built.

Here’s a look at the details of each of the six grants:


Use of UAVs

Dr. Zhen Zhu, associate professor in the Department of Engineering, received $217,432 to look at advanced applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and to develop a training workshop for DOT.

Zhu is teaming up with the construction management and geography departments for the work that will explore the use of camera and laser-scanning technologies in mapping disaster areas and construction sites.

“Ultimately, they want to save costs and minimize risks in using UAVs for their applications,” Zhu said. “They want to understand the application of UAV technologies on different types of applications they have such as construction, infrastructure, disaster management and disaster recovery. Also, they want to achieve a staff training curriculum. We will be using actual UAV sensor data to develop the training programs for DOT staff. DOT also wants to be able to provide guidelines and recommendations for other users in the state in how they can use UAVs and sensors.”

Zhu said DOT use of UAVs has cost advantages over the piloted aircraft that DOT currently uses.

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Originally published Oct. 10, 2019.