Bridge Management, Inspection and Sustainability

Single Abstract

342736 - Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (sUAV) Inspections in GPS Denied Area beneath Bridges

Saturday, April 21
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Location: 102

The United States has over six-hundred thousand bridges, of which more than fifty-thousand are rated structurally deficient. To extend the life of bridge structures, minimize cost, and protect the safety of the motoring public, efficient preventative maintenance is essential. Maintenance decisions are informed through visual inspections required on all bridges every two years. Bridges with superstructures that are hard to reach, such as bridges spanning water, may require the use of under-bridge inspection vehicles to complete a visual inspection. Although under-bridge inspection vehicles offer inspectors a close and hands-on view of the structure, they have disadvantages including cost, traffic closures, and safety.
The objective of this research project is to develop and demonstrate a small unmanned aerial vehicle (sUAV) that can be used to perform structural inspections, with the goal of providing deficiency identification with the same or better accuracy than that acquired through the use of under-bridge inspection vehicles. The proposed sUAV system builds off previously conducted studies, which have faced challenges with insufficient GPS signal to fly underneath a bridge. By using an optical flow sensor and a laser-range finder, the proposed system offers a method of holding position and safely operating underneath a bridge where GPS signal may be denied. Additionally, a top-mounted gimbal is used to capture images of the underside of bridges.
A number of bridge inspections were conducted as part of this project, focusing on the portions of bridges that would normally require an under-bridge inspection vehicle. Half of the inspections were performed alongside traditional inspections and the remainder were performed with no prior knowledge of the structure to compare findings with the results of recent inspections. This paper discusses the advantages and ongoing challenges associated with using sUAV systems to supplement bridge inspections. In addition, a cost comparison with current inspection practices was performed to quantify the reduction in financial resources by utilizing sUAV for structural inspections.

Andrew Tomiczek

University of Florida

Andy Tomiczek is a graduate research assistant at the University of Florida. Andy’s research, under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Bridge, is focused on structural health monitoring. Andy is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, and he received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Alabama in 2016.

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Peter Ifju

University of Florida

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Travis Whitley

University of Florida

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Stephen Gonzalez

University of Florida

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Jennifer A. Rice

Assistant Professor
University of Florida

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