UAVs to check on railway bridge safety

THE HANS INDIA |   Jan 29,2016 , 02:09 AM IST

Indo-Canadian initiative

Hyderabad: A one-of-its-kind pilot project concerning health monitoring of railway bridges in the South Central Railway zone is about to take off for the first time in India later this year.

Titled ‘India’s first UAVs for monitoring bridges and structures’, it is to be taken up by Chennai-based Vel Tech University and University of Victoria, Canada, with an initial grant of Canadian $3 million and a matching grant of Rs.1.5 crore from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. 

This initiative, which is being presently evaluated by Indian Railways, was a project which saw stiff competition from over 70 institutions, which had submitted proposals. India-Canada IMPACTS, a pan-Canadian multi-sector engagement body was the agency to handover the project to the winning bidder, which would have three-year tenure for it to be completed.   

Speaking to The Hans India, Dr Rishi Gupta, Principal Investigator, University of Victoria said, “Both India and Canada have aging and deteriorating infrastructure. With more than 50,000 major bridges in the Indian Railways, many are more than 100 years old. Given their age, there is an imminent need to monitor their condition on a timely basis.”

In the current project, the researchers from Vel Tech University and University of Victoria aim to deploy small-sized Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs), approx 1.5 metre wide, with 4 to 6 high capacity rotors for evaluating the structural integrity of long span railway bridges through multiple sensors and provide in-situ information on its structural safety.

“Spread over the three-year project timeline, a three-pronged method of research, capacity building and project management is expected to benefit 30 to 40 students from graduate to post-doctoral levels from both the countries on an exchange programme being contemplated,” said Dr U Chandrasekhar, Pro Vice Chancellor, Vel Tech University.

This, the team believes would be a quantum leap over the present bridge inspection methods undertaken which is confined to visual means, both inadequate and unreliable. Also, many inaccessible areas of the bridge could not be inspected. This new method would ensure real time monitoring of structural integrity of bridge structures and also provide safety to the travelling public, detecting early damages, cutting down the cost and time associated with repairs and maintenance.

K V D Kishore, Vice- President, Vel Tech added, “This research project will synthesise the state-of-art technologies available for health monitoring of civil structures by efficiently incorporating UAVs, sensors and contemporary electronic systems into bridge inspection and contribute to the infrastructure management of both the countries.”