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Using Drones to Scan for Structural Problems

December 15, 2016

CEE Professor & Chair Jerome Hajjar is working to create an "Aerial Robotic Infrastructure Analyst (ARIA)" that was highlighted in Phys.org.

Burcu Akinci, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, along with a team from the Robotics Institute led by Sanjiv Singh and a team at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University led by Jerome Hajjar, have joined forces to develop the Aerial Robotic Infrastructure Analyst (ARIA). This tabletop-sized drone uses photo and video capture techniques, as well as state-of-the-art laser scanners, to create a high-resolution 3-D model of the bridge which can then be safely analyzed by an inspector on the ground.

While infrastructure inspection is already being conducted in some cases by micro-air vehicles, ARIA is designed to be more than just a means of data gathering. As the drone flies autonomously around the bridge, it processes the data it gathers, providing feedback and suggestions while allowing the inspector on the ground to make assessments of the bridge in real-time. Then, after landing, the drone's onboard software can take the data it gathered and build a 3-D model of the bridge that inspectors can immerse themselves in to accurately visualize the structure without ever having to leave the ground.

Carnegie Mellon and Northeastern are pioneering this technology, and they predict that ARIA will be one of the first in a long line of robotic infrastructure inspection technologies.