Massachusetts Uses Drone to Inspect Subway Tunnels After Building Collapse

Following the partial collapse of a Boston-area parking garage onto subway tunnels, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) officials used a drone to conduct preliminary inspections on two subway lines before sending in a team of structural engineers.

The construction accident prompted delays and closures to subway services in downtown Boston, and the drone helped officials assess the conditions of the tunnels, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak told WCVB5 news.

MBTA enlisted the drone from the Massachusetts’ Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division Drone Program, which regularly provides unmanned aerial system services to all divisions of MassDOT and the MBTA for inspecting critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports and rail and transit facilities.

States have been using drones for safety inspections for several years. In 2021, the New York City Department of Buildings detailed the advantages UAS offer for collecting visual data during routine building safety inspections. Apart from certain physical examinations that must be conducted by qualified professionals, the department concluded drones can gather a significant amount of detailed visual information and help inspectors conduct visual reviews of building façade with greater efficiency.