University of Waterloo exploring robotic solutions to improve bridge inspections

September 16, 2019 / Source: Construct Connect

Researchers at the University of Waterloo (UW) have developed an innovative new robotics technology that might make inspecting bridges a little easier, cheaper and safer while producing more reliable results.

Instead of the traditional method of sending out inspectors to do a visual, which more often than not requires specialized equipment such as lifts to be brought in to accomplish the task, the new system automates the process by combining autonomous mobile inspection robots, cameras and LiDAR — a remote sensing method that uses lasers to systematically collect data for defect detection and analysis.

“We can do more than humans now do — and do it much better in every way,” says Sriram Narasimhan, an engineering professor at UW. “It is very inexpensive because you don’t need as many inspectors relying on specialized equipment such as lifts, and you get much higher quality information.”

The robots used by the researchers are waist-high, a couple of feet long and have four large, perhaps oversized, treaded rubber tires. They essentially look like little yellow tanks, with a plethora of very shiny, metallic equipment on top. Two platforms have been developed — a smaller, nimbler version that is easy to transport in a passenger car, and a larger, more rugged version for inspecting rough terrain

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