SOE Bridge Robot Innovation Wins Pankow Award

As the Robotics Assisted Bridge Inspection Tool (RABIT™) inches its way across and analyzes the surfaces of bridges in six states as part of its 1,000 bridge, five-year tour, it is picking up important bridge deck condition data as well as prestigious accolades along the way.  This novel robotic system was envisioned, planned, designed and constructed by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration and Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation to collect and analyze data on a representative sample of bridges around the country to better understand how they perform under different environmental and traffic conditions, and how effective various maintenance and rehabilitation procedures are.

The university-industry-government team that collaborated on the project was recently chosen to receive the 2014 Charles Pankow Award for Innovation from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).  In a letter to Nenad Gucunski, project leader and chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rutgers School of Engineering which was part of the interdisciplinary research team, the Pankow selection committee was “most impressed that RABIT™ is an important development in assessing structural health.”

Along with project leader Gucunski, the team includes Ali Maher, director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation; Basily Basily, industrial engineering assistant research professor; Hung La, post-doctoral associate; and University researchers Ronny Lim and Hooman Parvardeh. The Center’s expertise in infrastructure conditional monitoring, Gucunski’s experience in nondestructive evaluation technologies and with testing, and additions from multiple School of Engineering faculty and students turned an innovative idea into a breakthrough bridge monitoring technology. 

The RABIT™ robot automates data collection and simultaneously deploys multiple nondestructive evaluation technologies such as ground penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity, and acoustic arrays for impact echo and surface wave testing to capture the condition of the bridge much more quickly than it was possible in the past. FHWA will further use the data to develop a better understanding of concrete bridge deck deterioration, more reliable predictive models, and with all the other information contribute to the development of more realistic life cycle cost models.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of this robotic system is its enhanced data interpretation and visualization capabilities. Using the latest technology, the system is able to combine various data sets and render an almost instantaneous three-dimensional snapshot of bridge deck condition that is easy to interpret.

The FHWA is currently "fine tuning" the robot operation on bridges in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The five-year goal is to use the robot on 1,000 bridges nationwide. The robot complements conventional visual inspections in analyzing bridge decks—which typically deteriorate faster than other bridge components because of the direct exposure to traffic loads and environmental impacts.

Gucunski and his team will be honored for their innovative technology at the ASCE’s Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Gala on March 20, 2014, in Arlington. In winning the Pankow Award, Gucunski and his team join a diverse group of teams that have included engineering design firms, research institutes, state departments of transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, public utilities, and universities across the country.  

RABITTM Collaborators 
RABITTM was the product of a team effort exemplifying public-private partnerships and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Core team members were:

FHWA Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center 
Dr. Hamid Ghasemi
Jorge E. Pagan-Ortiz
Dr. Firas I Sheikh-Ibrahim
Michael F. Trentacoste

Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT)
Rutgers School of Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE)
Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE)
Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)

Rutgers Team Leaders
Dr. Ali Maher (CAIT/CEE)
Dr. Nenad Gucunski (CAIT/CEE)

Rutgers Faculty Contributors & Team Members
Dr. Basily B. Basily (ISE/CEE)
Dr. Kristin Dana (ECE)
Parneet Kaur (CAIT)
Dr. Seong-Hoon Kee (CAIT/CEE)
Dr. Hung La (CAIT)
Ronny Lim (CAIT)
Hooman Parvardeh (CAIT)
Prateek Prassana (CAIT)
Dr. Jingang Yi (MAE)

Dr. Mark Baker, Geomedia Research and Development
Giorgio Barsacchi, Ingegneria Dei Sistemi