Design and Construction

Smart Unmanned Surface Vehicles (drone boats) for scour management of Bridges in New Jersey

Hydraulic failure of bridges because of scour has been considered to be the leading cause of failure of bridges all across the country. Although NJDOT has been managing scour through inspections and countermeasures, accurate assessment of bridge foundation for scour and scour countermeasures is still a major challenge. Recent advances in autonomous robotic technology can be utilized to develop a smart and innovative surface vehicle (or drone boat) that can be equipped with sensors such as multi-beam sonar, GPS, lidars, cameras and other navigational tools. Integration of these tools on an unmanned surface vehicle or drone boat can be done to to build integrated 3D maps that can be used for inspection of scour, foundation degradation mechanisms and scour countermeasures that are in place. This system can facilitate fusion of underwater bathymetric information and foundation condition with maps of the above-water structural elements. The focus of this research will be on the development of such system or customization of similarly existing system for application to NJDOT bridges. The research will also focus on the technology transfer, implementation and training of NJDOT engineers. Effectiveness of the system, including the software module, will be demonstrated for a number of NJDOT bridges. The proposed system will not only provide real-time 3D visualization of bridge foundation conditions, but will also improve the safety of public and will eliminate the need for underwater inspection. High fidelity 3D maps of foundations will also significantly improve the design and construction of countermeasures that can ensure public safety. Application of the system to bridges across NJ will also lead to a better understanding on scour depths and other foundation characteristics.

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Idea No. 146