DBi at the Transportation Research Board 99th Annual Meeting

Mark Robinson, Richard Baker, John LeFante, Frank Julian and Bill Toothill represented DBi at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting held January 12–16, 2020, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C. The information-packed program attracted more than 14,000 transportation professionals from around the globe. TRB is the largest transportation research conference in the world.

The meeting program covered all transportation modes, with more than 5,000 presentations in nearly 800 sessions and workshops, addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions. A number of sessions and workshops focused on the spotlight theme for the 2020 meeting: A Century of Progress: Foundation for the Future.

Richard Baker and Frank Julian presented “Crash Reduction with High Friction Pavement (HFST)” at the 2020 Transportation Research Board Roadside Safety Design International Subcommittee AFB20 (2). The meeting was well attended by numerous countries from around the world but the predominant number of the attendees were from USA transportation agencies and industry. The focus of the presentation showed HFST as an effective tool to keep vehicles in their lane at critical highway locations. Examples of highly effective crash reductions for roadway departure and intersection crashes were presented. While HFST is effective for crash reduction at intersections, the most widely used applications of HFST in the USA have been for horizontal curves which are heavily overrepresented in the most severe crash types. While numerous studies have shown HFST is extremely effective in reducing skid crashes, it also is effective in mitigating crashes caused by speeding. HFST should be considered as a speed countermeasure and not just limited to skid crash locations. HFST should not be considered to be just a pavement with some safety benefits, it is a “Great Safety Treatment” that happens to be a pavement. It is a critical tool for the most common severe crash types across the USA, and no other countermeasure has matched the reduction in injury and fatal crashes.

John LeFante was a presenter and participant in a panel discussion entitled, “Collecting and Managing Vegetation Assets on the Roadway” sponsored by the Roadside Maintenance Operations Subcommittee (AHD 50). John, along with Ray Willard of WADOT, John Krause of MDDOT and Scott Lucas of ODOT, discussed how private contractors and public agencies collect and utilize data to aid in the development and management of their vegetation programs. Discussion included new and emerging technologies such as the use of LIDAR and unmanned aerial vehicles to collect data. The core focus was how the data collected by these emerging technologies aid in the development and refinement of vegetation management programs. There was robust conversation from both the panel and audience on the evolution of vegetation management practices and the new trends in how roadways are now managed in regards to their “green” assets.

Bill Toothill presented “New Tools for Transportation: Current and Emerging Uses of Drones for Infrastructure Monitoring and Equipment Maintenance” as part of the 2020 TRB Spotlight Theme - A Century of Progress: Foundation for The Future.

Bill’s presentation focused on the current use of Drones for maintenance management. He provided real world examples of how drones are being used in DBi field operations. Videos showed a DBi drone spraying herbicide in challenging environments eliminating the need for individuals to be at risk in dangerous situations. Also, from a vegetation perspective the use of drones was exhibited utilizing Near Infrared (NIR) imagery to detect vegetation biomass and health in a large tract in the FL everglades. This approach assists in species identification and inventory from an aerial perspective in hard to reach situations.

Bill provided examples on the use of multispectral image capture from a drone to discriminate between individual species of vegetation for inventory purposes as well as video footage from DBi operations in the use of a drone for graffiti paint over spraying and the actual filling of a pot hole from a drone.

Turning the focus to a maintenance perspective Bill illustrated the use of a drone to perform aerial reconnaissance of a large solar farm that DBi maintains in southern CA. This approach allows not only an aerial view of the facility for maintenance planning perspective but also the use of Thermal Infrared (TIR) imagery from a drone, to detect malfunctioning photovoltaic cells in the large solar panels.

Mark Robinson, who attended Bill’s presentation, noted that, “Bill stole the show in a very prestigious cross-cutting session. His practical examples of doing work with drones, rather than just doing inspections with drones, had audience members in awe. It gave great credit to Bill and his team’s work, and gave great customer exposure for DBi.”

Mark Robinson chairs TRB’s primary maintenance committee – AHD10 Maintenance and Operations Management – which sponsored 3 sessions and co-sponsored 5 sessions as part of the conference, in addition to holding the committee’s annual meeting. The primary focus areas of the sessions were the use of technology in highway maintenance (machine learning, drones, electric fleet vehicles, etc.), preparing for autonomous vehicles, and optimizing highway maintenance. The 8 sessions and the committee meeting were all very well attended with vigorous discussions and lots of interest

TRB was established in 1920 as the National Advisory Board on Highway Research to provide a mechanism for the exchange of information and research results about highway technology. The mission of the Transportation Research Board is to promote innovation and progress in transportation through research. In an objective and interdisciplinary setting, TRB facilitates the sharing of information on transportation practice and policy by researchers and practitioners; stimulates research and offers research management services that promote technical excellence; provides expert advice on transportation policy and programs; and disseminates research results broadly and encourages their implementation.