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Early Detection of Infrastructure Flaws Using SAR

Researchers at Texas A&M University, led by Dr. Anand Puppala and Ph.D. candidate Amit Gajurel, recently conducted a study demonstrating how early detection of infrastructure issues using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data can help prevent further road damage. This research was published in the Transportation Research Record.

Early Detection of Infrastructure Flaws Using SAR
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) remote sensing systems allow researchers to inspect and characterize pavements, retaining walls, and embankments from space and can help determine if there are flaws that should be further inspected for repair. Image Credit: Texas A&M Engineering

With age, infrastructure becomes more vulnerable to failure. This can lead to financial difficulties for taxpayers and safety and mobility issues for drivers and pedestrians.

Researchers are employing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) remote sensing technologies to develop a new infrastructure monitoring tool. SAR saves time by enabling researchers to examine and describe embankments, retaining walls, and pavements from space. It can also identify any defects that require additional inspection before repair.

If a given area would typically take five days to complete — between surveying the data and determining large and small areas of failure — when using the satellites, we could actually look at the data and make the same determinations in only two days, which can be very useful for time-saving.

Dr. Anand J. Puppala, A.P. & Florence Wiley Chair Professor and Director, Center for Infrastructure Renewal, Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Texas A&M University

In addition to saving agencies time on repairs and preventative measures, using satellites to monitor infrastructure and pavement conditions could potentially lower the expenses of maintaining transportation infrastructure assets.

We are building this up to use as a source of data for geotechnical asset management and looking at how to integrate this remote sensing data into geotechnical asset management. We can use SAR data for managing the geotechnical assets. This could be a great method for organizations that are looking for a cost-effective way to manage these assets.

Amit Gajurel, Ph.D. Student, Texas A&M University

SAR remote sensing technology has been used to investigate geomorphological changes and unexpected movements such as earthquakes and landslides.

Dr. Puppala added, “When there is damage due to a natural disaster, authorities use the satellite systems to determine what caused it. Recently, we started utilizing this method to look at transportation infrastructure, including highway embankments, roads, and even airport runways.”

Most doctors and patients believe that preventive care is preferable to responding to an emergency. Preventative treatment gives doctors more time to develop the optimal strategy for their patients.

Similarly, asset managers can proactively address defects and plan for prospective concerns by combining infrastructure condition data from SAR technology, saving time and money that would otherwise be lost.

Journal Reference:

Gajurel, A., et al. (2024) Application of Satellite-Based Remote Sensing for the Management of Pavement Infrastructure Assets. Transportation Research Record. doi:10.1177/03611981241230535

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