Research Activities: 2006


Long-Term Remote Sensing System for Bridge Piers



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Sequential Number


Identification Number


Matching Research Agency

National Cooperative Highway Research Program/New York State DOT/University of Missouri Columbia

Principal Investigator

Glenn Washer, Assistant Professor
Lafferre Hall Room 2503

University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211

Student Involvement

The project will involve two graduate students working on algorithm development, system testing and implementation.  Two undergraduate research assistants will also participate in the project, assisting in laboratory testing and modeling.

Project Objective

The objective of the project is to develop a targeted health monitoring system intended to detect and measure tilt and vertical displacement/ settlement conditions of bridge columns and piers through a high-density sensor network.

Project Abstract

Scour and other natural hazards have the potential to undermine the stability of piers in highway bridges. This has led to bridge collapse in the past, and significant efforts have been undertaken to address the potential danger of scour and other hazards. However, there remains a lack of reliable, cost-effective, long-term monitoring devices capable of determining the structural stability of bridge piers. Research and development proposed within this project is intended to develop a unique and robust monitoring system for highway bridge piers. This system will be designed to measure changes in tilt and vertical displacement of bridge piers using an array of low-cost sensors mounted on the bridge pier and superstructure. Signal processing correlation algorithms will be developed that use sensor density and location to better measure long-term bridge rotations and displacements.The use of a high-density sensor array will provide a redundant, autonomous and stable measurement system. Unique and innovative aspects of the proposed system include 1) the ability to measure vertical displacement of a pier that may occur without tilt, and 2) special signal processing algorithms that will reduce temperature and drift problems common to long-term monitoring systems, and 3) the implementation of a redundant sensor array to reduce costs and increase long-term system reliability. The prototype system will be tested in cooperation with the New York State Department of Transportation.

Task Description


Anticipated Benefits

The anticipated benefits of the system include:

  1. The ability to remotely monitor structural stability of bridge piers over extended time periods
  2. Development of a unique, high-density sensor array and supporting signal processing technique that provides long-term reliability
  3. Increased reliability and safety of highway bridges
  4. Improved methodology for evaluating the effects of scour and other natural hazards on the structural stability of bridges

Modal Orientation



Project Start Date:10/18/2006
Project End Date:10/17/2009

Relationship to other Research/Projects

The proposed project is part of a developing program to design and implement targeted health monitoring schemes for highway bridges.

Technology Transfer Activities

Technology transfer activities will include publication of research results in archival journals, a presentation of research results to the Missouri Department of Transportation, and inclusion of research results in undergraduate and graduate curriculum at UMC.

Transportation Research Board Keywords

Bridge testing, nondestructive evaluation, health monitoring, scour monitoring