A recent review of our nation’s aging bridges, dams, and other infrastructure highlights the need to rehabilitate or replace structurally deficient or functionally obsolete structures. Current inspection methods involve expensive, specialized equipment, and are labor-intensive as well as potentially dangerous. Furthermore, inspections are subjective and result in representations that are difficult to compare over time.
The Aerial Robotic Infrastructure Analyst (ARIA) project introduces a new concept in infrastructure inspection. Rather than putting inspectors in harm’s way, ARIA uses small, low-flying robots, coupled with three-dimensional imaging, and state of the art planning, modeling, and analysis to provide safe, efficient, and high-precision assessment of critical infrastructure. We illustrate the concept with bridges because they are among the most prevalent and important types of infrastructure requiring regular inspection, but the ideas can be applied to many types of infrastructure, including electrical transmission towers, dams, and buildings.