INSPIRE - University Transportation Center

Inspecting and Preserving Infrastructure through Robotic Exploration (INSPIRE)

Center Mission

Providing leadership in research, education, workforce development and technology transfer aimed at infrastructure inspection and preservation solutions with advanced technologies for a sustainable and resilient transportation system.

Bold Vision

In the next 30 years, our highway and railway system will face challenges ranging from aging infrastructure and increasing congestion to declining revenues due to reduced fuel tax and increasing service interruption. Cheaper, faster, and safer inspection and preservation tools are needed to maintain our nation’s ground transportation system in a state of good repair.

Currently, bridges and tunnels are visually inspected and manually maintained under traffic control with the aid of boom and snooper trucks.

In the future, with successful development and implementation of robotic platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), these structures will be evaluated and sometimes maintained underneath bridge decks with no access equipment and no traffic control, reducing labor hours, avoiding rental, transportation and mobilization costs of equipment, saving fuel and indirect costs associated with service interruption, alleviating traffic congestion, and promoting work zone safety.

Interdisciplinary Research

Faculty from civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, engineering management and computer science are collaborating to explore, develop, validate, and demonstrate remotely-controlled robotic platforms for the inspection and preservation of bridges and tunnels and a robot-enabled resilience analysis and intervention framework for post-disaster assessment and recovery of the structures.

Key technologies include mobile manipulating UAVs, structural crawlers, lab-on-sensor calibrations and standardizations, hyperspectral and microwave imaging, risk-based inspections, data-driven preservation strategies, and resilience analysis methods.

The developed technologies can be applied to potentially amend inspection regulation for fracture critical members and re-invent an integrated inspection and preservation decision process from performance monitoring through emerging risk identification to support planning of preservation actions.

Innovative Workforce Training

A simulation-based training and control system will be designed and validated to develop the next-generation transportation workforce. Video games will be developed to attract more students and the public to robotic inspection. A robotic simulator will be designed for professional training.

Together, a robotic simulator with training video games will be used to educate and train all Americans with job opportunities associated with information and automation technologies, including millennials and other underserved populations through minority serving partner institutions and two-year community colleges.

Seminars, workshops and training courses will be offered to promote the developed new technologies. Both hardware and software will be disseminated to end users in private and public sectors.

Students will be connected to potential transportation industry employers through external advisory committee and annual meetings.

MAjor Consortium Members

Missouri University of Science and Technology City College of
New York
Georgia Institute
of Technology
University of Colorado
at Boulder
University of Nevada,
Las Vegas
University of
Nevada, Reno