After an earthquake strikes, how do you quickly and safely assess bridges, roads and other pieces of infrastructure that communities  rely on?

Rather than sending teams of people out in what may be dangerous conditions, for a lengthy period of time, drones could be utilized to do the job efficiently and safely. A team of researchers at Northeastern University, funded in part by a seed grant from the Global Resilience Institute (GRI), is working to do just that.

King 5 Seattle Video Screenshot

“The goal here is to avoid disasters that follow disasters,” Taskin Padir, Associate Professor for Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern and GRI Faculty Affiliate told King 5 Seattle. “You could have one operator that goes down to a bridge and then flies ten drones or multiple drone systems at the same time. You can get the job done very quickly.”

The team is working with the Center for Regional Disaster Resilience, located in the Pacific Northwest. The technology they are developing utilizes sensors: Cameras to find specific areas of a structure, and Lidar to detect data points and expose faults, or points of damage.

“This is definitely an emerging field,” Padir told King 5. “On a daily basis, a better sensor comes up. I think any form of sensing is game to identify the anomalies. You’re looking for something that doesn’t look right.”

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