Missouri Provides Additional Funds for Bridge Repair Technology

Missouri S&T researchers are developing unmanned aerial vehicle technology and other tools to monitor and inspect bridges and sections of highway.

Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T) (Rolla, Missouri, USA) have been engaged in a five-year project to develop robotic tools that would inspect, maintain, and repair state bridges, highways, and other infrastructure. Those efforts could be aided by a recently announced proposal by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to use $351 million in bond funds to repair an estimated 250 bridges.

Through a University Transportation Center program known as Inspecting and Preserving Infrastructure through Robotic Exploration (INSPIRE), Missouri S&T researchers are creating technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and bridge-crawling robots, that inspect bridges without disrupting traffic. In addition, S&T’s robotic technology can be controlled remotely to apply sealant or paint to bridge sections. These innovations will help enable bridge inspection procedures “to be reinvented and transformed into a faster, cheaper, safer and more consistent process,” according to INSPIRE Director Genda Chen.

As Chen, who also serves as the Robert W. Abbett Distinguished Chair in Civil Engineering at Missouri S&T, pointed out, Missouri bridges received a middling grade of C from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. The ASCE report claims that 4,800 bridges across the state are in need in repair, with one out of every eight bridges deemed “structurally deficient.”

Along with the millions of dollars they might collect from the Missouri state government, INSPIRE receives annual grant money totaling $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. These funds will help support the construction of the Clayco Advanced Construction and Materials Laboratory (ACML), an INSPIRE research facility on the Missouri S&T campus. Scheduled to open in Spring 2020, this facility will enable Missouri S&T to develop and test new construction materials and methods. “The addition of this premier facility will position Missouri S&T as a global leader in infrastructure research and will help us realize our long-term vision of making civil infrastructure safer, more durable and longer lasting,” said ACML Director Kamal Khayat, who also serves as Missouri S&T’s Vernon and Maralee Jones Professor of Civil Engineering.

Khayat also leads two other Missouri S&T-based research programs that study infrastructure durability: the Research on Concrete Applications for Sustainable Transportation (RE-CAST) and the Center for Infrastructure Engineering Studies (CIES). Like INSPIRE, RE-CAST is a University Transportation Center program that annually receives $1.4 million for infrastructure materials research, while CIES develops ways to extend the life span of highways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure.

Source: Missouri S&T News and Events, www.news.mst.edu