The state of Missouri is keen on working with Missouri S&T to inspect and repair the state’s bridges with robots and drones.
The drones will provide aid from the sky, analyzing and inspecting the bridges from their aerial viewpoint. When fitted with a repair arm, the drones will also be able to make minor repairs to select structures, such as sealing a crack. The robots, on the other hand, will “cling to the side of bridges and crawl along the surfaces,” according to St. Louis Public Radio.
The main goal is to increase safety during bridge inspection and repair, as well as make the process easier for the engineers involved, while retaining a high level of detail in the data collected.
“It’s got to be very easy to use, so the engineers can do their jobs and not worry about flying a drone,” says Mark Bookout, IT director for the research project, to St. Louis Public Radio. “More like a toaster for bridge inspection, just press a button and it goes.”
Along with robots and drones, a new set of sensors will also join the inspection process. “The sensor can tell strain, temperature, and also how much corrosion loss there has been in the cross section at the same time as collecting data on the exterior of the bridge structure,” Genda Chen, Missouri S&T civil engineering professor, explains.
Chen goes on to say that the drone and robot forces will be able to gather more information “than an engineer could do on their own.”
With the goal of getting these systems ready two years’ time, models are currently being tested with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
According to St. Louis Public Radio, “Bridge repair is a priority of Gov. Mike Parson. He used his State of the State address to propose spending $350 million to repair 250 bridges. The Legislature is considering the program.”