NASA uses satellite data to detect structural changes in bridges

Using data derived from satellite imagery, this analysis can potentially detect subtle changes that indicate a bridge’s deterioration not visible to the naked eye.

NASA uses satellite data to detect structural changes in bridges
NASA uses satellite data to detect structural changes in bridges

NASA uses satellite data to detect structural changes in bridges

Using spatial technology to detect structural flaws in bridges, a team of scientists from NASA are using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) collected from satellites to detect structural changes occurred in bridges over time. Using data derived from satellite imagery, this analysis can potentially detect subtle changes that indicate a bridge’s deterioration not visible to the naked eye.

Last year in August, the Morandi Bridge, near Genoa, Italy, collapsed that killed dozens of people.  Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory compared synthetic aperture radar (SAR) measurements from several different satellites dating back to 2003 in order to measure the structural displacement of the bridge over time. This analysis let the researchers measure millimeter-size changes to the bridge. Analysis showed that as early as 2015, the deck next to where the bridge collapsed was showing signs of displacement.  Researchers were also able to measure changes to the bridges structure in 2017 and 2018 that might have indicated a degradation in the bridge’s stability.

The results of the analysis are promising as a method for measuring subtle changes that could portend a hazardous deterioration of a bridge’s structure.  The analysis currently can only be done for bridges that have been continuously covered by satellites collected SAR data.

Read More: New Method Can Spot Failing Infrastructure from Space