Drone Fleets Could Monitor Bridge Safety

By Ian Chant



Checking for cracks, rust, and other wear and tear on bridges and other infrastructure can be a pretty old-fashioned endeavor. Teams of civil engineers maneuver beneath bridges manually inspecting joints and beams for damage that could cause them to collapse under pressure. Now, a pair of professors at Tufts University are building a system that combines vibration sensors and quadcopter drones to keep an eye on bridges in real time and alert engineers when something is amiss.


For years, Tufts University civil engineering professor has been working on ways to keep tabs on the structural health of bridges on a day-to-day basis. In 2009, Moaveni and his students affixed 10 sets of accelerometers and thermal sensors to the Dowling Hall footbridge on the Tufts campus in Medford, Mass. Those sensors relay five minutes of data gathered every hour to a small server housed in a weatherproof case near the bridge. By analyzing the pattern of vibrations traveling through the structure, Moaveni and his team can identify changes in that pattern that could suggest damage to part of the bridge… [Read more]