Inspecting bridges and viaducts using drones

Better insight into the condition and timely identification of changes

This week, the condition of maintenance of the Tankinkbrug in the municipality of Hof van Twente is carefully inspected using a drone with specialist sensor technology. This new inspection method can prevent inconvenient situations such as those at the Waalbrug in Nijmegen last year by making better predictions about the current condition based on detailed data. Rijkswaterstaat and researchers from the University of Twente are involved in the Twente47 testing ground.

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In short

  • Many bridges and viaducts are at the end of their theoretical lifespan.
  • Current inspection models only offer limited detailed information.
  • Developing a warning system based on images and artificial intelligence (AI)
Twente47 testing ground

The pilots that will take place on July 10th and 11th are a supplement to the “Artworks in Control” program that is supported by the province of Overijssel and Rijkswaterstaat. In the program, ways are searched for to gain insight into the major replacement issue for artworks (bridges and viaducts). Tests involve the University of Twente and Saxion University of Applied Sciences and companies such as Inertia Technology, DRONExpert, Antea Group, Strukton, Pelle Loonbedrijf and drone experts from the Netherlands and the United States.

Development of warning system

One of the pilots that are being carried out at the Tankinkbrug is aimed at developing a warning system based on images and artificial intelligence (AI). By using drones, images of the bridge are shot and supplemented with manually shot images at places where a drone cannot reach. These images are converted into a 3D image of the bridge. By applying AI, damage and distortions can be identified and categorised in an automated way. Insights can be gained into the technical lifespan of structures, bridges and viaducts by comparing such results over time. The used technology was developed by Ali Khaloo, a PhD student at George Mason University in Fairfax, USA. In collaboration with him, the University of Twente and Saxion will continue to develop the technology further.

Digital copy as an instrument to monitor the condition

The second pilot focuses on the development of a “digital twin”, which can be constructed using sensors. It is not novel to monitor the behaviour of a bridge or viaduct using sensors. The innovative part is that this digital twin can be used to determine the current condition, but also to be able to visualise future developments of artwork using simulations. During the pilot, displacement meters, accelerometers, but also high-resolution cameras and smartphones are tested as instruments. Instruments can also be used complementarily. The digital twins are very useful during the construction and first months of an artwork, bridge or viaduct and towards the end of the technical lifetime, while the warning system is more usable in the intervening period.

Date: 12 July 2019
Author: Novel-T
Audio / video: Novel-T