Autonomous Wall-climbing Robots for Inspection and Maintenance of Concrete Bridges (AS-3)

University: The City College of New York

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jizhong Xiao, The City College of New York

PI Contact Information: Phone: (212) 650-7268  |  Email:

Co-Principal Investigators: Dr. Anil Agrawal, The City College of New York

Funding Sources and Amounts Provided:
INSPIRE UTC: $107,901

Total Project Cost: $107,901

Match Agencies ID or Contract Number:
CCNY: In-Kind Match   |   INSPIRE UTC: 00055082-01C

INSPIRE Grant Award Number: 69A3551747126

Start Date: January 1, 2019
End Date:  September 30, 2020

Brief Description of Research Project:

Since 2002, the PI’s group has developed four generations of wall-climbing robots for NDE inspection of civil infrastructure. These robots combine the advantages of aerodynamic attraction and suction to achieve a desirable balance of strong adhesion and high mobility. They don’t require perfect sealing and can thus move on smooth and rough surfaces, such as brick, concrete, stucco, wood, glass, and metal. For example, Rise-Rover uses two drive modules to carry their middle compartment with payload up to 450 N. GPR-Rover and Mini GPR-Rover are custom designed to carry a GSSI’s GPR antenna for subsurface defect detection and utility survey on concrete structures such as bridges and tunnels. The robots can also carry other devices such as impact echo and ultrasonic flaw detectors for bridge evaluation. To date, all the robots are remotely controlled to scan concrete surfaces.

Approach and Methodology: Impact sounding has been recognized as an effective NDE tool to detect delamination and void in concrete structures. An enormous amount of sounding data can be generated/collected by the inspection systems equipped with impactors and microphones. The main challenges in the practical application of this technology are the automatic data collection and the development of advanced impact sounding data analytics that can be used for identifying subsurface defects. This project will focus on investigationg visual and impact sounding inspection using Wind-Rider robot that can maneuver on curved surfaces. We will improve the robot with
new impact sounding mechanism, enhance the visual simultaneous localization and mapping (VSLAM) algorithm for visual inspection and mapping, integrate the sounding data analytics in the robotic software and visualize the subsurface defects in 2D map, helping professional engineers analyze structural conditions.

Overall Objectives: This project aims to to produce a highly capable and highly reliable robotic platform with vertical mobility to automatically collect visual and sounding data and be ready for field deployment in real world bridge inspection applications.

Scope of Work in Year 1:  (1) Investigate solutions to overcome the limitations of the current impact sounding mechanism, (2) Investigate impact sounding and/or impact echo instruments to be outfitted on robot for structural integrity testing, (3) Select the most feasible solution and conduct detailed mechanical design and CAD modeling of the new impacting mechanism, (4) Design embedded control and automatic sounding data collection system.

Scope of Work in Year 2: (1) Develop sounding data analysis software in collaboration with Anil’s team, (2) integrate the V-SLAM algorithm with the sounding data processing algorithm to locate and visualize the subsurface defects, (3) System integration and perform in-house testing of visual and impact sounding inspection, (4) Conduct field testing on actual infrastructures to evaluate the performance of the robot and inspection results.

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: