An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tiny Drone Does Huge Job for City

Flickr- Kevin Baird -

A tiny aerial drone came to the rescue of Coeur d'Alene city engineers trying to inspect a huge city water tank last week. City water department officials are concerned about deterioration of a 160-foot tall structure they call the Prairie Standpipe. The giant monolith on the north side of town holds 2-million gallons of water. It's said to be the largest structure of its kind in the world.

Coeur d'Alene water superintendent Jim Markley said the standpipe, built in 1993, is starting to show its age with rust spots here and there on the exterior. Inspecting the standpipe by lowering crews from the top would have taken days. But a consultant for the city suggested a quicker, cheaper alternative - a small helicopter-like drone equipped with a camera.

Markley said that by documenting the condition of the standpipe coating up close, the city can issue more accurate and detailed specifications for contractors who want to bid on a new coating job. And Markely was impressed with the drone. As he put it - It took 15 minutes to zip around and get pictures, and that was it."

Related Content