Remote Sensing for Monitoring Bridge Conditions

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With bridges across the country in a critical state of repair, the importance of inspection practices and bridge management systems are more critical than ever. To improve such systems for bridges, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Dr. Shen-En Chen is leading a team in the development of Commercial Remote Sensing (CRS) applications.

Working with the UNC Charlotte Center for Transportation Policy Studies group and the Charlotte Visualization Center, Dr. Chen is now beginning phase two of the National Commercial Remote Sensing for Bridge Monitoring Project. The project is funded by a $2.6 million grant (with $1.3 million in-kind matching from other state and city DOTs) from the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the US Department of Transportation.

“The goal of phase one was to develop an Integrated Remote Sensing and Visualization (IRSV) system that integrates CRS for bridge monitoring and maintenance,” Dr. Chen said. “That prototype IRSV was completed successfully. Now in phase, two we are focused on outreach and validation of the model and integrating IRSV components into state and local bridge management systems.”

The CRS technologies that have been developed through this project include laser scanning technology and a small format aerial photography technique that includes an onboard GPS system for flight planning and the posting of sub-inch high resolution bridge images in GIS (geographical information system) platforms.

IRSV improves bridge management systems by addressing complex issues in data fusion of multiple formats, particularly in time series data. IRSV provides temporal data transformation and detailed bridge damage information to enhance understanding of various types of bridge damage, both on bridge decks and in structural members.

Key Phase II researchers include Dr. Edd Hauser of the Center for Transportation Policy Studies, Dr. Bill Ribarsky of the Charlotte Visualization Center, Boyle Consulting Engineering LLC of Charlotte and ImageCat Inc. of Long Beach California. Other partners involved in different aspects of the project include and several state and city DOTs including Charlotte DOT, North Carolina DOT, New York state DOT, Iowa DOT, Alabama DOT, Los Angeles County Public Works and Texas DOT.

For more information see the NCRST website at or contact Dr. Chen at