Re-Inventing the Bridge Inspection Program (IM-1)

Universities : University of Colorado - Boulder
                            Missouri University of Science and Techology

Principal Investigator : Dr. George Hearn, University of Colorado - Boulder

PI Contact Information : phone: (303) 492-6381  |  email:

Co-Principal Investigators : Dr. Genda Chen, Missouri University of Science and Technology
                                                         Dr. Anil Agrawal, The City University of New York

Funding Sources and Amounts Provided:
University of Colorado: $48,680
INSPIRE UTC: $97,359

Total Project Cost : $146,039

Match Agencies ID or Contract Number:
University of Colorado: In-kind Match   |    INSPIRE UTC: 00055082-03A

INSPIRE Grant Award Number : 69A3551747126

Start Date : March 1, 2017
End Date : July 31, 2018

Brief Description of Research Project:

The INSPIRE center will apply mobile sensors, robots, and UAVs in bridge inspection to improve quality of inspection data and reduce time and cost. Full use and benefit of these technologies demands the re-invention of programs for bridge inspection. It is not sufficient to graft new technologies onto existing inspection programs.

Approach and Methodology. A new inspection program will be proposed with the following considerations:

  • Visual inspection by a human inspector is low-tech, but complex. An inspector makes multiple, diverse decisions to identify, evaluate, and record conditions during inspections. The inspector cannot be automated. Instead, clearly defined constituent tasks in observation or detection could to aid the inspector.
  • Constituent tasks cost less if tasks are repeated with little or no change at many bridge elements and at many bridges. Inspections can be organized by task, a single task at many bridges in one deployment, which differs from the current organization by bridge, many tasks at a single bridge in one deployment.
  • Inspections can be made incremental with knowledgeable crews for various tasks. Separate crews complete separate tasks at separate times. But conditions and defects are mapped in standardized reports of inspections. Spatial distribution and correlation of conditions among elements will help understand and remedy the causes of deterioration.
  • A data system is needed to track the dates and methods of all constituent tasks together with the bridge elements and portions of elements completed. The data system aids in efficient organization of inspection activities, and in assurance that each bridge is completely inspected every two years.
  • All constituent inspection reports at each bridge are periodically reviewed to make a comprehensive evaluation of safety, which is the intent of Federal regulations for bridge inspection programs. NBIS Team Leaders will have new authority to select, schedule, accept, and review constituent inspections, and then make evaluations of safety. Evaluations will include a field visit to each bridge to verify the remaining uncertain or ambiguous findings of constituent inspections.

Overall Objectives: This project aims to develop and demonstrate a new cost-efficient, risk-based program of inspection of highway bridges. The new program employs spatial reporting of conditions, risk-based inspection intervals, incremental execution of inspections as constituent tasks, and automation of inspection tasks. It matches inspection methods to intended uses of inspection data with a comprehensive organization to monitor performance of bridges, to identify emerging risks, and to support planning of preservation actions for bridges.

Scope of Work in Year 1: The focus of the first year will be on spatial reporting for bridge inspections. Standards and case studies of spatial reporting of bridge inspections will be produced. Spatial reporting captures the locations of all conditions and defects found during inspection. Existing methods of inspection will be adapted to map-based reporting. Maps are broadly defined to include schematic plans of bridges and the use of photo overlays to record locations of defects. Both paper- and computer-based reporting methods will be addressed.

Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes:
Research outcomes and implementation plan will be described towards the end of this project.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation:
Impact/Benefits of Implementation will be summarized at the end of this project.

Project website:
Progress reports: