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Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAV) constitute a rapidly evolving technology field that is becoming more accessible and capable of supplementing, expanding, and even replacing some traditionally manual bridge inspections. Given the classification of the bridge inspection types as initial, routine, in-depth, damage, special, and fracture critical members, specific UAV mission requirements can be developed, and their suitability for UAV application examined. Results of a review of 23 applications of UAVs in bridge inspections indicate that mission sensor and payload needs dictate the UAV configuration and size, resulting in quadcopter configurations being most suitable for visual camera inspections (43% of visual inspections use quadcopters), and hexa- and octocopter configurations being more suitable for higher payload hyperspectral, multispectral, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) inspections (13%). In addition, the number of motors and size of the aircraft are the primary drivers in the cost of the vehicle. 75% of vehicles rely on GPS for navigation, and none of them are capable of contact inspections. Factors that limit the use of UAVs in bridge inspections include the UAV endurance, the capability of navigation in GPS deprived environments, the stability in confined spaces in close proximity to structural elements, and the cost. Current research trends in UAV technologies address some of these limitations, such as obstacle detection and avoidance methods, autonomous flight path planning and optimization, and UAV hardware optimization for specific mission requirements.
Ameli, Zahra; Aremanda, Yugandhar; Friess, Wilhelm A.; and Landis, Eric N., "Impact of UAV Hardware Options on Bridge Inspection Mission Capabilities" (2022). Civil Engineering Faculty Scholarship. 5.
Ameli, Z., Aremanda, Y., Friess,W.A., Landis, E.N. Impact of UAV Hardware Options on Bridge Inspection Mission Capabilities. Drones 2022, 6, 64. https://doi.org/10.3390/drones6030064
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