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Research: Camera Yields Faster Bridge Deck Inspections

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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The Michigan Department of Transportation, working in collaboration with the Michigan Tech Research Institute, is developing a new way to inspect bridge decks: a high-quality camera that is attached to a vehicle trailer hitch as it drives across a bridge.

The system, a 3D optical bridge evaluation system, known as 3DOBS, is being tested in southwest Michigan.

Bridge Deck Inspections

In earlier testing, a digital still camera, which had the resolution capacity, was used, though it did not have a fast-enough frame rate. An updated version of the system, which used a cinema-grade digital camera called the RED 8K S35, was able to capture the necessary images and data in real-world conditions.

ehrlif / Getty Images

The Michigan Department of Transportation, working in collaboration with the Michigan Tech Research Institute, is developing a new way to inspect bridge decks: a high-quality camera that is attached to a vehicle trailer hitch as it drives across a bridge.

"The big difference is that this camera offers full-resolution images at 60 frames per second," said MTRI's Richard Dobson, who is serving as the principal investigator on the project. This is a difference between scanning the structure at 5 mph vs. 45 mph. "At 35.5 megapixels, with the camera 9 feet above the ground, we can put a lot of pixels on a spot,” Dobson added.

During testing, researchers drove across 10 different MDOT bridges, then compared the camera results to traditional inspection reports.

"The two biggest advantages to this system are that there's very little disruption to traffic … and you don't expose inspectors to traffic," Dobson said. "We can collect all this data without having to have inspectors on the road and without closing lanes."

Once data is collected, it can be displayed in two ways: a 2D mosaic composed of many images, or a 3D rendering of the bridge deck. This way, bridge deck deficiencies can be identified. The software is also able to generate condition data for inspection reports.

Further use of the camera is slated for the remainder of the summer, in order to determine how it might fit into inspection workflows. Both traditional visual inspections and 3DOBS are limited in what they can do, however: Neither can detect fractures in subsurface concrete, also known as delamination. This usually requires infrared technology or acoustic techniques.

Regional offices can request to use the camera and will be subsequently trained. Dobson added that the university is also investigating underwater drones that can check for damage on sediments found near bridge piers.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; Inspection equipment; NA; North America; Quality Control; Quality control; Transportation

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