Wi-Health Project Background

Project Outline

Bridge collapses arouse strong public concern and major bridge collapses have occurred at an average rate of 1 every two years globally for the past 200 years and continue to occur. Most major collapses have resulted in significant loss of life and serious economic losses resulting from the interruption to transport and the need for reinstatement.

In the EU there are around 308,000 managed bridges with an average surface area of 295 million m2 (1042 m2 per bridge). Current expenditure on their maintenance and inspection is around €3.6 billion and €161 million per annum respectively. Those figures highlight an urgent need for improvement in preventative inspection and maintenance. Therefore efficient and cost-effective monitoring methods are required to employ.

Existing NDT methods have the following limitations:

  • Early signs of deterioration are often not seen.
  • Accessibility to some parts of the bridge is difficult and costly.
  • High level of skill required to distinguish signals from noise.
  • The current Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) methods are expensive and time consuming – i.e. most of the methods have limited range so wide area coverage needs multiple access points
  • The current SHM methods used are unable to reliably detect and measure defect growth continuously to assess when to close the bridge to the traffic to avoid any catastrophic failures.