Radar-in-a-suitcase making bridges safer

Assessing ageing bridges just got safer and easier, thanks to a high-tech radar device that fits inside a suitcase.

Developed by Dr Lihai Zhang of The University of Melbourne as part of a collaborative research project supported by The Australia-Indonesia Centre, the IBIS-S radar technology can scan a bridge in 15 minutes from a kilometre away, quickly assessing its condition and stability.

“Just like humans, bridges fatigue and deteriorate and need to be looked after,” Lihai says.

“Using radar-in-a-suitcase, we can better predict when bridges need maintenance and repairs so workers will be safer and budgets will be more effectively spent.”

Using structural drawings provided by VicRoads, the radar-in-a-suitcase measurements, and soon a drone that can ‘see’ cracks in bridges using image recognition, Lihai and his team have built 3D computer models that can predict how the bridge, in its current condition, would respond to damage and disaster.

He’ll be taking his suitcase to Surabaya to work with Professor Benjamin Lumantarna of Petra Christian University to assess the health of Indonesia’s bridges.

The project is supported by The University of Melbourne, Petra University, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Benjamin Gideon and Associates, Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember, and VicRoads.

Drones will help engineers efficiently assess cracks in concrete bridges. Credit: Lihai Zhang
IBIS-S radar equipment surveying Merlynston Creek Bridge in Melbourne, Australia. Credit: Lihai Zhang