Alaska Deploys Drone-Based Avalanche Control System

Several state agencies in Alaska recently collaborated on a major test of drone-based avalanche mitigation technology; a system that uses Unmanned Aerial System or UAS craft to place and then remotely trigger explosives to create controlled avalanches in order to protect transportation infrastructure.

[Above photo by Alaska DOT&PF]

The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and the Alaska Railroad Corporation used Drone Avalanche Reduction Technology or DART developed by Drone Amplified in January to place and then detonate explosives; safely setting off avalanches from a distance in order to protect vulnerable transportation infrastructure from damage.

[Editor’s note: The agency initially began testing such drone-based systems in May 2023.]

The Alaska DOT&PF said the goal is the program is to shift away from the use of artillery-based avalanche mitigation techniques to ones that rely on drones, also known as UAS.

“This demonstration represents a significant step forward in avalanche risk reduction for our public highways,” noted Timothy Glassett, Alaska DOT&PF avalanche and artillery program manager, in a statement.

“Alaska is moving away from military artillery as a primary means of avalanche mitigation, and will adopt Remote Avalanche Control Systems or RACS,” he added. “UAS will help fill the gap where RACS are not feasible or economical.
The agency noted that “RACS” are fixed position detonation installations, commonly used in mountainous areas around the world, to protect infrastructure from natural avalanches. They are also becoming the international standard for avalanche hazard reduction, Alaska DOT&PF pointed out.

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