The Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development (DOTD) was already conducting a pilot project with HeadLight—a photo- and cloud-based construction inspection system—when 2020 came along with the COVID-19 pandemic and five hurricanes.

Thousands of miles of roadways were damaged and there were power outages across the state after Hurricane Laura. But according to a report by the Louisiana Transportation Research Center, a division of DOTD, employees were able to view real-time updates from colleagues across the region using HeadLight, and the agency completed 1.1 million cu yd of debris cleanup before the next hurricane.

But DOTD was seeing benefits even before the 2020 hurricane season began. “When COVID hit, having the desktop version of HeadLight allowed our area engineers, even at home, to check in on their projects,” says Tyson Rupnow, associate director of research with the LTRC.

HeadLight provides a set of tools for capturing inspection data, including text and photo observations and embedding them directly into daily work reports. Project inspectors can generate and submit these reports from the field using iPads, eliminating human error from transcribing notes. Data gathered on site is “automatically combined with contextual information—time, location, GPS stamps,” says Si Katara, HeadLight co-founder and president. “It is event-driven capture of activities as they happen. It’s almost like a Facebook feed for a project, with administrative abilities.”

Although the 18-month pilot program initially had 18 projects, it swelled to 54 as more divisions voluntarily adopted the technology, says Mary Leah Coco, DOTD associate director of technology transfer and training. “It was just this grassroots swell that happened.” HeadLight is now a standard tool being used across DOTD.

According to DOTD’s report on the pilot effort, inspectors using HeadLight experienced a 28% increase in productivity when creating and submitting daily work reports, collecting 1.9 times more jobsite information.

The report states that DOTD has reduced claims by more than 75%. Rupnow says the agency will soon conduct a linear analysis to verify the report’s findings but notes that of the 54 projects, there was just one pre-existing claim. Coco adds that the study also will examine a reduction in costs due to teams working remotely. “We may also find how this helped with cleanup and asset management [after the hurricanes].”