Skip Navigation

Mid-America Transportation Center

A Quadcopter with Heterogeneous Sensors for Autonomous Bridge Inspection

Final Report
click to download report


University of Iowa


  • Principal Investigator: Zhaozheng Yin ( 573-341-6266)
  • Project Status
  • Start Date: 07/01/2012
  • End Date: 06/30/2013
  • About this Project
    Brief Project Description & Background
    We propose an autonomous system to monitor in-service bridges by following navigation paths designed by control algorithms or human operators, use sensors on the quadcopter to collect data that record changes of a bridge over time, and transmit the data over a wireless network back to a base station. The data processing algorithms on the base station will process the data to assess the bridge health. The proposed autonomous system integrates multidisciplinary technologies of Robotics, Control, Sensors, Communication and Signal Processing, which aims to (1) relieve the cost and burden of manual bridge inspection; (2) collect complete data on a bridge including the underneath part, and (3) routinely inspect a bridge over a long time with low sensor maintenance cost.
    Research Objective
    The ultimate goal of this research is to develop autonomous systems capable of automatically monitoring and inspecting bridges with minimum labor involvement. We propose to build a prototype autonomous system consisting of a mobile robot (e.g., quadcopters), a control unit, a group of sensors on the robot, a communication module and data processing software on a base station. The testbed will be further explored in future collaboration with Civil Engineers.
    Potential Benefits
    The prototype system will serve as a testbed based on which the PI will collaborate with bridge health experts and sensor scientists to design innovative technologies on autonomously inspecting and monitoring bridges by robots.
    Continuously monitoring a bridge's health by sensor technologies has been widely used to maintain the operation of a roadwork while protecting public users safety. However, monitoring and inspecting numerous bridges in a state is a labor-intense and costly task. A recent survey (Gastineau et al. 2009) shows that among 25 sensors used in 38 companies, there is no autonomous system capable of inspecting bridges automatically. We propose to advance the bridge inspection technology a step further by developing a quadcopter with heterogeneous sensors, which aims to enable the autonomous bridge inspection.
    Total Project Cost
    $ 26,387