Researchers Use Drones to Detect Potholes, Cracks, and Other Road Damage

Article from | VentureBeat

Drones are good for more than ferrying burgers to hungry golfers and snapping pics ready-made for social media, as it turns out. They’ve also been proposed for nuclear reactor inspection and used to detect signs of damage on wind turbines. In a newly published paper on the preprint server Arxiv.org (“Real-Time Dense Stereo Embedded in A UAV for Road Inspection“), scientists describe AI that can be embedded in a quadcopter for road inspection.

The frequent detection of different types of road damage, e.g., cracks and potholes, is a critical task in road maintenance,” the researchers wrote, noting that most inspections are still performed manually. “[M]anual visual inspection [is] not only tedious, time-consuming, and costly, but also dangerous for the personnel. Furthermore, the detection results are always subjective and qualitative because decisions entirely depend on the experience of the personnel … With recent advances in airborne technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with digital cameras provide new opportunities for road inspection.

The paper’s authors’ framework comprised a stereo vision system — an algorithm that extracted 3D depth information from images — that captured a reference view. Disparities between the reference image and real-time snaps of the road were used to produce a “disparity map,” which was fed into a mathematical function that made the damaged areas easier to spot.


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