The use of drones for detecting changes in bridge condition brings a new dimension to structural condition monitoring

Bridge Inspection Reaches New Heights

❱ ❱ Ground based inspection techniques will still be needed for producing final maintenance plans


undreds of thousands of aging road and rail bridges spread across vast territories of the USA have been causing a headache for highways authorities in assessing their condition and planning maintenance work to

prevent potentially catastrophic failure. The problem is intensified by the “critical mass” of bridges falling into an age range during which they’re beginning to show signs of failure after the bridge building boom 20-30 years ago. Historically, bridges have always been inspected on the ground using visual methods, measuring and core sampling the bridge decks at points where the sub-surface is suspected to be deteriorating. Now, drones are increasingly being used with sensing

apparatus to detect defects from afar, but is it enough on its own?

US DRONE TRIALS Electronics giant, Intel has been collaborating with two departments of transport in the USA to improve bridge inspections, supplementing manual inspections of the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge connecting Ohio and Kentucky and the Stone Arch Bridge in Minnesota. Throughout the inspections, Intel’s advanced automated commercial drone hardware and software increased efficiency and produced more reliable data in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods. According to Intel’s vice president in charge of the drone team, Anil Nanduri, bridges throughout the world have been experiencing undetected structural issues due to inefficient inspection and monitoring processes and unreliable data for rehabilitation. “With aging infrastructure, it’s critical to address the real- world concern of transport safety and with Intel’s drones, not only is speed and accuracy improved through increasing automation of existing workflows, but also safety risks are reduced through providing engineers and transport agencies with more reliable, actionable insights for maintenance planning,” he says. To achieve this on the high traffic volume Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, the Intel drone captured about 2,500 high- resolution aerial images, generating 22GB of data that was

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uploaded into the Intel cloud platform. Using the images, a 3D model – or a digital twin of the structure – was generated to aid with analyses and visualisation that can also be applied to monitoring the paint deterioration and cable stability of the bridge over time.

INFRA-RED INSPECTION In Minnesota, Intel worked alongside structural engineering company, Collins Engineering to inspect several bridges of different types and compare the results to manual inspection methods. In these cases, different sensors were deployed so that still

images, video and Infrared images could be used to compare the value received from them. Evaluation is continuing throughout 2019 with benefits already having been achieved in the visualisation of changes in structural integrity, wear and surface deterioration as well as finding potential sub-surface defects in the bridge decks using infrared imagery. Overall, the visual inspection element alone saves considerable time over manual inspections due to the ability to cover more bridges over a wider area in less time. However, the sub-surface defect detection capabilities of IR sensors could yield bigger benefits in reducing ground-level inspections with associated closures and traffic disruption.

DECK LEVEL INSPECTION US company, Infrasense has long been engaged in the technology of bridge inspection and has reduced lead times for performing bridge deck assessments through the use of

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