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MnDOT Uses Drone To Inspect Duluth's Blatnik Bridge

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation's plan to use drones for bridge inspections took another step forward with the testing of the idea on the state's largest bridge in Duluth.

On Wednesday, a $40,000 drone equipped with a GPS took off from the John A. Blatnik Bridge as MnDOT conducts Phase 2 of inspections.

Instead of closing down roads and sending an inspector up into an $800,000 snooper machine, the drone can get into spots where an inspector can't.

Bridge inspection officials say there are a few things that need to be done first though before launching the drone.

"We have to do an inspection safety plan for any location that we're going to use a drone on. We also have to have an aircraft as we call it that's registered and insured through our aeronautics office. They have to be completely involved with whatever we're doing," Jennifer Zink, MnDOT's Bridge Inspection Engineer, said.

Inspections on Blatnik Bridge can take two to three weeks, but with a drone MnDOT officials say it can reduce inspection time by 30-percent.

If the tests are effective, Minnesota could become the first state to use drones to help inspect the state's nearly 25,000 bridges.

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