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Intel drone solutions modernise US bridge inspections

Intel has collaborated with two US departments of transportation to improve bridge inspections, supplementing manual inspections of the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge connecting Ohio and Kentucky and the Stone Arch Bridge in Minnesota.

Throughout the inspections, Intel’s advanced automated commercial drone hardware and software solutions increased efficiency and produced more reliable data in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods.

More than 600,000 bridges are in the U.S., and nearly 10 percent of them are currently rated structurally deficient or obsolete. Each bridge is structurally unique and needs regular inspections to achieve safety requirements for general use.

Traditional inspection methods can be dangerous, costly and time-consuming. And they often provide unreliable data.

These methods also obstruct daily traffic patterns with road closures, rely on manual labour that doesn’t always capture accurate data for proper rehabilitation assessment, can be prohibitively expensive to publicly funded sources, and require many work hours.

Intel’s commercial drone solutions assisted officials in the full drone workflow, from the flight planning and aerial data capture to the cloud-based digital data management, processing and analytics. In some cases, this resulted in a 40 percent cost savings over standard inspection processes.

In collaboration with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Michael Baker International, Intel used its drone technology to help inspect and analyse the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, an eight-lane interstate that crosses the Ohio River.

Between lift-off and landing, this automated inspection  enabled the bridge to remain open and fully functional while the team completed the assignment.

The drone captured about 2,500 high-resolution aerial images, generating 22GB of data that was uploaded into the Intel Insight Platform.

Using the images, a 3D model – or a digital twin of the structure – was generated to aid with analyses and visualisation that can also be applied to monitoring the paint deterioration and cable stability of the bridge over time.

Separately, working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Collins Engineers, Intel and its commercial drone technology helped expedite an inspection of the iconic Stone Arch Bridge, a landmark pedestrian and bicycle bridge in Minneapolis.

While most bridges are inspected every 24 months, officials inspect the Stone Arch Bridge annually due to the complex nature of the structure’s ageing masonry and a fractured steel span.

Incorporating Intel technology, MnDOT and Collins Engineers increased efficiency, reducing work hours by 28 percent. The work resulted in an inspection cost savings of approximately 40 percent that could save taxpayers an estimated $160,000 over the next 10 years.