Technology innovation for improving bridge management

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Visual inspections are an important component of bridge monitoring efforts. There are a variety of emerging technologies and novel methods that can be used in the inspection process to improve data collection, enhance inspector safety, and reduce the number of potential road closures. Numerous research efforts have been undertaken with the goal of automating significant portions (or the entire) of the inspection process. However, from an industry standpoint, shifting to completely automated inspection procedures from the current manual approach is unlikely to occur in a single step. Furthermore, when these technologies are adopted, a disconnect typically exists between the expected and actual value generated, impeding consistent innovation and widespread adoption in the industry.

There is a continual call for more real-world structural health monitoring (SHM) use cases to be documented which can demonstrate its effectiveness in bridge management; and frameworks that can evaluate the value of SHM in a systematic manner have not been widely studied. As a result, this thesis first presents a SHM case study which successfully compares in-service temperature data from a deployment on Waterloo Bridge, UK to international design models. In general, the monitoring programme provided useful information about the structure’s thermal behaviour during operation. Secondly, a value rating methodology for SHM deployments was applied to three bridge structures in the UK via a series of semi-structured interviews. The investigated methodology was capable of providing a reasonable representation of the real value generated for the asset owner, but it may not fully capture the benefit of ‘model validation’ deployments.

The viability of a remote inspection method in which inspectors solely use digital images to rate defects has received little attention. Therefore, in the second half of the thesis, an experimental trial is presented which investigates the feasibility of such a method. Statistical analysis shows that aggregated defects rated by off-site inspectors are perceived to be more severe and of a higher priority than those rated by on-site inspectors. The findings of this study also indicate that remote inspections may be no less subjective than traditional on-site inspections. Lastly, a schema that may facilitate a photo-based remote inspection process is developed. Key stakeholders are identified and the overall system architecture of the schema is described. While focus was placed on developing a framework that would be more easily deployed in day-to-day operations, it is viewed by the author that the resulting framework could easily be adapted to implement newer technologies.
Date of Award9 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorPaul J Vardanega (Supervisor) & Theo Tryfonas (Supervisor)

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