Over the past few decades, many state departments of transportation (DOTs) have been experiencing an expanding highway construction program concurrently with a reduction in the amount of construction project staff that are available to administer these projects. Existing state inspection personnel have to rely on innovative technologies and strategies for addressing the increasing demand and discharge their responsibilities in an efficient way. The adoption of mobile devices and modern surveying equipment for construction inspection have proven timely and beneficial for state DOT inspectors, who play a critical role overseeing and managing several moving parts of a construction job. A wide variety of digital tools are available to support construction inspection activities while offering numerous benefits, including improved data quality and consistency, enhanced communication, improved transparency, and improved safety of the site personnel.
Most of the recent research efforts have focused on developing guidelines and documenting effective practices for digital inspection. Emerging technologies such as small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) and remote imaging and video tools provide opportunities for enabling visual inspection (both offline and in real-time) that can be conducted remotely. Remote inspection can offer safety and efficiency enhancements while providing accurate digital data for verification and as-builts. It is important to note that the construction inspection on federally funded projects is often governed by federal regulations that offers oversight guidelines for state DOTs. There is need to develop guidelines for state DOTs in evaluating and successfully integrating the tools enabling remote inspection while meeting verification and acceptance requirements for various elements of highway construction and complying with governing regulations.
The objectives of this research are to (1) evaluate the state-of-the-art technologies and systems available in the market for remote inspection; (2) identify the activities and elements of highway construction that can be inspected remotely using the technologies; (3) document potential implementation challenges from a technological, procedural, and legal standpoint and propose mitigation strategies; and (4) develop an implementation framework for state DOTs to incorporate remote inspection technologies.
Digital technologies offering remote inspection capabilities provide opportunities to offset the challenges faced by the state DOTs owing to resource constraints they face with limited inspection personnel. Guidelines for systematically evaluating and integrating these tools to support inspection requirements would benefit SHAs considerably by equipping their personnel with skillsets required to transition to efficient digital workflow. It will also act as a valuable reference for other stakeholders including contractors and consultants that work with the state DOTs.