The world has become a global village because countries are now interconnected, more people are travelling and business is expanding in multiple nations. All of these things are happening at an ever increasing pace and to stay competitive on the world stage today our infrastructure needs to keep up. Without a modern, safe infrastructure our ports will not be able to handle the new deep water cargo ship, goods will not be transported from factories to shipyards in a timely manner and people will be constantly late for work. Today more than ever, growth and development is not possible if the nations infrastructure lags behind.
In the 19th and 20th century, America focused mainly on expanding its transportation network by building roads, bridges and other concerned structures. But the inspection and maintenance of those structures have not kept pace. Many of those structures entered the end of their useful life years ago. Traffic loads are 10 times what they were when some of these structures were built. Because they now support more traffic, the loads place additional wear on them. In addition, due to antiquated inspection methods the corrosion and deterioration has outpaced repairs. Due to this deterioration we need to find alternatives to just replacing or re-building these structures. There is just not enough money in the system to replace all of the bridges for example that are in a state of disrepair.
How modern technology and robotics can revive the infrastructures?
Use of technology and robotics is a proactive step in the maintenance of our infrastructure. For example, if you know that you are having symptoms of any disease in its initial stage then you can effectively treat the disease and regain your health. Similarly, if we know where deterioration, water intrusion and corrosion is occurring in a structure we can make the minor repairs to them before they become a threat to the whole structure.
Modern technology plays a major role in inspecting the deterioration and other deformities developing in the structure. It accurately assesses the condition of a structure like bridge, road, dam, tunnel in a non destructive manner. In traditional might I say the current antiquated methods, inspections are performed on selected areas which is known as lot sampling and samples are collected through methods like coring and cutting which is a destructive method. Once you core or cut we are exposing these areas to air and moisture which further causes corrosion.
The inspection and monitoring process of infrastructure needs to change. With today’s modern technology and robotics we have the capability to make our inspection processes more accurate. Modern robotics integrated into the inspection process can not only provide more quantitative data but can prevent lane closures, increase the safety of both the inspectors and the public and more accurately assess the infrastructure they are inspecting.
Modern technology combined with robotics has many advantages over traditional methods of infrastructure inspection and maintenance. Some of the benefits are:
· No more lane closures or temporary closing of the bridge
· Eliminates the need for night time inspections
· Increased safety of public and inspection crew
· Quantitative results instead of subjective results
· Real time data analysis on site
· Data history of structure condition can be stored for later detailed analysis
· Accurate condition assessment of surface, super surface and sub surface layers
· Determine density of concrete cover and location of rebar without damaging the surface
· Find out minor cracks, voids, water intrusions inside the surface and visualize it through 2D and 3D illustrations
· Reduce labour expenses and saves time
· Collect data from dangerous heights from every angle with the help of robotic equipments
· Thoroughly check each and every component of the structure and find out more minor and major problem areas as compared to visual inspection
· Helps in recommending and prioritizing the repairing work
Utilizing modern technology and robotics will help to provide utmost safety to public and staff during bridge and road inspection and provide accurate condition assessment report to the Department of transportation and bridge owners. By providing the quantitative data the DOT needs to properly allocate assets we can help extend the service life of our critical infrastructure assets and save billions in untimely replacements.
It is important to note that the technology by itself is not enough. Experienced certified bridge inspectors along with robotics will help to offer the asset managers a far better deliverable then they have ever received before. Conducting bridge inspections in this manner will reduce not only reduce the cost of bridge inspection or inspection of any other structure significantly, but provide the quantitative data the department of transportation needs to allocate assets.