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CSU Research Published on Developing Data Analysis Technique to Improve Bridge Inspection Using Drones

Posted: Nov 19, 2021

Colorado State University researchers have developed a process to streamline bridge inspections and make them more objective and quantitative. Their method could keep better tabs on deteriorating infrastructure and help bridge owners plan for maintenance.

In an MPC-supported work, Yanlin Guo, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Ph.D. student Brandon Perry used unmanned aerial vehicles and artificial intelligence to devise an efficient data analysis and visualization technique for inspecting bridges.

Traditionally, bridges have been inspected by a person physically climbing on the structure, which can be costly and dangerous. These inspections generally are done once every two years, and they are subjective; the inspectors assign a rating based on their individual perception. Over the past five years, some transportation departments and inspection companies have begun using drones to collect images for inspections. Drones are incredibly efficient at collecting data; they can snap 500 photos an hour or shoot large video files. It can take a person one to two months to analyze all that imagery for bridge damage.

Guo and Perry developed tools to process the drone data in several hours with minimal user input. Their process is largely automated and relies on machine learning and computer vision, removing subjectivity and potential for human error.

A paper on their work, "A portable three-component displacement measurement technique using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and computer vision: A proof of concept" was published in the May issue of the journal, Measurement. A second paper on the work, "Streamlined bridge inspection system using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and machine learning techniques," co-authored by Associate Professor Rebecca Atadero and Professor John van de Lindt and published in the November issue of the journal. The project was also featured on the CSU Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering News page.

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