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A recent analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation data shows more than one-third of U.S. bridges are in disrepair. There is an increasing national interest in using electronic information systems that can provide data on a bridge’s structural performance between regular in-person inspections. 

The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) researchers have been awarded $5 million by the Department of Defense Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to conduct research that will extend the lifespan of bridges through new monitoring technology.

While current digital systems would provide some efficiencies – like early detection of potential safety hazards – they could be vulnerable to cyber security threats.

The research project, titled “Multilevel Analytics and Data Sharing for Operations Planning (MADS-OPP),” will demonstrate how to identify and reduce risks and the cost-benefit of integrating technology on aging rural bridges.

Using rural Nebraska bridges as full-scale “testbeds,” the research team will conduct research and development relating to data collection at the edge using internet of things including sensors, UAVs and more; secure data processing and management from the edge to the cloud; visualizations and analytics of data using machine learning; socio-technical impacts, and decision support systems.

The project will allow for predictions of the remaining bridge life and guidance for maintenance using secure communications and protected data systems. Their work will also provide mission-critical data that can be utilized by the Department of Defense as well as public and private stakeholders to better prioritize their budgets, protect bridges, and, most importantly, ensure the safety of citizens who travel on them, as reported by unomaha.edu.