Asst Prof of Indian origin bags $505K grant to research digitizing Texas bridges


The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has awarded a three-year, $505,286 grant to an assistant professor of Indian origin at the Cullen College of Engineering. The grant is meant to solve complex problems relating to highway bridge safety and enable the academician to conduct advanced research on digitizing bridges using robots, data, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Vedhus Hoskere, an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department who joined the faculty at Cullen in 2020 is the lead PI for research, “Development of Digital Twins for Texas Bridges.” The project began in September 2023 and the research is expected to continue till August 2026. Hoskere said that the goal is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s bridge maintenance.

“Texas is home to 55,000 bridges, more than twice any other state in the country,” he said. “These bridges must be inspected every two years, but traditional inspection procedures of bridges are not always effective in making sure bridges are safe. Our project with the Texas Department of Transportation is about figuring out how to best leverage technology like drones, cameras, sensors, and AI to gather a lot of data about bridges, and then use that data to make high-quality decisions.”

“To put this data in context, we create a 3D digital representation of these bridges, called digital twins. Then, we use artificial intelligence methods to help us find and quantify problems to be concerned about. We’re particularly interested in any structural problems that we can identify – these digital twins help us monitor changes over time and keep a close eye on the bridge. The digital twins can be tremendously useful for the planning and management of our aging bridge infrastructure so that limited taxpayer resources are properly utilized.”

This is the first TxDOT project that Hoskere will be working on. “We have been researching developing digital twins for inspections and management of various infrastructure assets over the past 8 years. This project provides us an opportunity to leverage our expertise to help TxDOT achieve their goals while also advancing the science and practice of better developing these digital twins,” he added.

Hoskere also chairs the sub-task group of the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE) on AI methodologies for typical pathologies, and degradation identification for remote inspection of bridges. “Our international efforts align closely with this project’s goals. The insights gained globally will enhance our work in Texas, while our research at UH contributes to advancing bridge digitization worldwide,” Hoskere said.
In addition to Hoskere, Dr. Craig Glennie will be a co-PI for the project, while Hugh Roy, and Lillie Cranz Cullen will be distinguished chair and director of the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping. “We’re very fortunate to have a world-renowned expert like Dr. Glennie be part of this project. He will contribute his knowledge and expertise on laser scanning to help realize the project’s objectives,” Hoskere said.

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