Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Augmented Bridge Inspection Feasibility Study

Download Final Report

CAIT project no.: CAIT-UTC-NC31

Fiscal Year: 2015/2016

Status: Final

Rutgers-CAIT Author(s): Marc Maguire, Ph.D., Patrick Szary, Ph.D.

External Author(s): Dan Gorely

Sponsor(s): USDOT-FHWA, Idaho Transportation Department


Departments of Transportation (DOTs) perform inspections at regular intervals for all assets including bridges. Bridges are inspected by teams of bridge inspectors and represent a significant portion of the budget within a bridge or structures division. Lowering inspection costs using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones would allow DOTs to more effectively use their funds in other areas such as rehabilitation or replacement of aging infrastructure.


UAVs equipped with thermal and visual spectrum cameras, can be used to perform targeted investigations of sensitive regions. The UAVs can be flown by a pilot on the ground, programed to automatically follow a path and collect data for inspection using GPS. This may give the inspection team the more time to spend on other tasks or other bridges and reduce the need for inspection equipment like boom trucks. The purpose of this project is to assess the current state of UAV bridge inspection, identify challenges and shortcomings then propose and/or develop solutions. This will be accomplished by creating basic protocols for UAV image collection, geographical positioning system denied navigation and safe navigation. These tasks will first be performed and perfected in a controlled environment and later used in  a tandem human-UAV inspection on an in-service bridge.