Eyes in the Sky – drones providing safer, more cost-effective bridge inspections

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Essex Highways keeping motorists safe by using drone technology to inspect more than 1.500 bridges and culverts in county.

Bridge inspections by drone saves money, avoids road closures and improves repair programmes.

Camera drones are already being used in industry but, in a major innovation, drones and related tech are now helping Essex Highway engineers to carefully inspect critical structures like bridges and culverts in better, safer, and recordable ways.

Councillor Lee Scott, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways Maintenance and Sustainable Transport, attended a demonstration of the drones in action at the bridge crossing the River Wid, located on A414 Greenbury Way, Chelmsford.

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Bridges and structures

Information on transporting heavy loads or wide loads in Essex, weight and height restrictions.
Schools, districts, boroughs or charities can apply to paint or create public art within subways.

Highway structures are managed as a special type of Highways “asset” because they usually require advanced engineering.

Highway structures include bridges, flyovers, viaducts, culverts (small tunnels taking water under a road), subways, gantries, footbridges and retaining walls.

There are some 2,500 highway structures in Essex and approximately 1,600 of these are owned and maintained by Essex County Council (ECC). (Some of the others are railway bridges or on private land). All our owned structures are inspected every two years so that we can check their current condition and arrange any urgent safety repairs or programme other maintenance works.

It is the Structures Team at Essex Highways who look after these bridges and other structures across the county to help keep Essex moving safely.

Essex structures range in size from major flyovers to single-span wooden footbridges which carry Public Rights of Way.

The Structures Team includes designers, technicians, principal engineers and senior managers who together deliver the Essex Structures programme for each year.

  • The Structures Team are responsible for

    • Road bridges (other than footbridges), any culverts or tunnels that have a span greater than 1.2 metres.
    • Footbridges with a span of 8 metres or greater; but also a few of particular engineering complexity whose span is less than 8m.
    • Retaining walls, or headwalls, with a retained height from finished ground level in front of the wall of over 1.5 metres
  • The main jobs the Structures Team carry out are

    • Inspections - The Structures team aim to inspect approximately 800 structures per year.  Some of these inspections are undertaken in confined spaces where we use CCTV cameras. The aim of these inspections is to keep the structures safe for all users taking into account that many structures are key points central to the life of the community.
    • Carrying out assessments on structures to determine their strength, using the results to place structures on the repair or replacement programme.
    • Carrying out Principal Inspections, Option Studies, Detail Designs and Site management.
    • To project-manage repair and replacement schemes, ensuring that Essex residents, our colleagues and our partners are kept informed of progress.
  • What we are not responsible for

    • Private Bridges
    • Railway Bridges - These are managed by Network Rail - 03457 11 41 41
    • Bridges over the A12/A120/M11/M25 - These are managed by National Highways - 0300 123 5000
    • Bridges over the A130 between the A12 and A1245 - These are managed by CountyRoute

Reporting a fault

To report a problem with a highway bridge or structure, please tell us online, you can check who is responsible for maintaining a bridge or structure using the map below.

Bridge location map