Aerial vs. Vehicle-Based Infrared Thermography for Bridge Deck Delamination Detection

Vehicle-based infrared thermography surveys have provided state Departments of Transportation with a powerful tool to supplement or replace traditional hammer sounding methods for detecting bridge deck delaminations. While vehicle-based surveys have greatly reduced the need for closures and the time associated with inspecting a deck, aerial infrared thermography surveys show potential for greater coverage to enhance maintenance and rehabilitation planning. Infrared data has already been collected on select bridge decks with both vehicle-based and fixed-wing aircraft systems to assess the level of detail and accuracy of infrared data collected at altitudes approximately 1000 feet, and additional data will be collected in the summer of 2018. The investigations will focus on using the fixed-wing aerial infrared results as a high-level scoping tool for large corridors of decks where aerial data collection offers greater efficiency and cost savings, with the goal of identifying decks that show little thermographic activity and can be excluded from the more detailed vehicle-based surveys. The paper will discuss the methodology and equipment for aerial Infrared surveys, present comparative examples of aerial versus vehicle-based deck data, and describe the implementation of aerial IR surveys at the network and project level.



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  • ASTM Standard D4788-03 (2013). “Standard Test Method for Detecting Delaminations in Bridge Decks Using Infrared Thermography.” ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA.


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