Michigan Tech drone data app improving bridge inspections

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - What do flying drones, heat sensors and bridges have in common?

They are all part of a new app under development at Michigan Tech's Research Institute.

Drones make bridge inspections easier to document using multiple sensors to collect data.

“One of the conditions that the bridge engineers are interested to know is bridge delamination, where the top surface layer of the bridge is getting detached from the reinforcement,” said associate geology professor Thomas Oommen.

Delamination is usually detected using labor-intensive hammer tests. Sensors can detect delamination as hot spots on the bridge. Attached to a drone, the test is faster, safer for workers and no longer interrupts traffic.

“Having this sensor technology is really good but at the same time it needs to be accessible to the bridge engineers to be able to use it daily,” said Oommen.

Michigan Tech Research Institute takes the drone data a step further, bringing it all together in one app.

“The engineers can collect the data and directly upload those data sets into the software and get the results right when they do the assessment,” said Oommen.

The app logs location-specific information on a 3-D model of the bridge. Researchers are still developing the app that could be the future of bridge inspections.

“The delamination part, the thermal sensing part is not integrated into the app yet but we have already developed the software for that,” said Oommen.

Researchers hope to add thermal sensing to the app in the next phase of the project.