Linkage Projects 2020 Round 3 Announcement Banner

Drive-by bridge inspection technology

Drive-by bridge inspection technology

Primary Researcher: Dr Mehrisadat Makki Alamdari  

Institution: The University of New South Wales (UNSW) 

ARC-funded research is developing a vehicle equipped with sensors that could revolutionise structural assessment of the condition of thousands of bridges across Australia.  

Through an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, Dr Makki Alamdari is working with her team at UNSW and partners at Kyoto University in Japan to develop a vehicle-mounted sensing system that can build a snapshot of a bridge’s structural condition.  

‘I am aiming to develop a low-cost and robust bridge monitoring framework through advanced data analytics, solely based on the response of a moving vehicle passing over the bridge,’ Dr Alamdari said.  

Checking the structural integrity of Australian bridges, almost three-quarters of which were constructed before 1976, currently requires a regular visual inspection. This is expensive, time-consuming and subjective.  

Large bridges such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge use structural health monitoring technology. The large number of sensors installed on the bridge, provide a continuous stream of data that engineers use to identify any emerging structural issues.  

However, the cost for similar deployment on most of the thousands of bridges around the country, many of which are short-span bridges in rural areas, would be prohibitive.  

‘The need to make reliable assessments of bridge safety has grown as higher traffic volumes and larger and heavier vehicles have increased the loads on bridges,’ Dr Alamdari said.  

In collaboration with her partners at Kyoto University, Dr Alamdari and her colleagues have developed a custom-built prototype vehicle that travels over bridges.  

The vehicle is equipped with multiple accelerometers and load cells to measure the dynamic response of the vehicle once it is moving, and it also measures the interaction force between the vehicle and the bridge. A data-acquisition system on the vehicle logs data in real-time.  

‘In the laboratory, we have proven that we can monitor the health status of the bridge using this technology,’ Dr Alamdari says.  

‘But in the field, it’s always a different story because, from my experience working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I know there are a lot of unexpected challenges.  

‘To get it to the required level involves a lot of work in terms of advancing and tuning the parameters of your algorithm and increasing the sensitivity of your sensors. All those things need to be just right to ensure the technology works in the way we intend.  

‘But we are definitely on the right track.’  

Image: iStock

Back to top