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Podcast: Saving Structures with Satellites

Gemma Ball
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How can data from satellites track structural movement and give early warning of potential failure? New research shows that catastrophic bridge collapses could have been prevented if engineers had been paying attention to the right information, information that is currently being collected by satellites orbiting our planet.

In the latest episode of the Engineering Matters Podcast we’re discussing our latest project – BRIGITAL – which uses radar satellites to detect movement of infrastructure, such as bridges, to support maintenance and aid the prevention of damage. We speak to the engineers making this possible, and their terrestrial counterparts now tasked with figuring out how best to use this new perspective.

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Visit the Engineering Matters website to listen (or wherever you get your pods!)


We’re collaborating with the National Research Council for Canada on creating a decision-support tool for asset maintenance decision makers. The pilot study tool, named BRIGITAL, visualises data on the national network of bridges in Canada to deliver indicators on structural stability and safety.

Inspecting bridges across often remote areas in Canada is costly, and with large gaps between inspections can lead to a potential problem being undetected for up to two years. With this in mind, a solution using SAR data from satellites has been created to monitor this bridge network remotely and at scale.

BRIGITAL processes and analyses data from a range of sources, including satellites, ground sensors, and visual inspections, and displays any vertical displacement of bridges over time with millimeter accuracy. This real-time monitoring can aid users in deciding when and where to focus resources to preempt large scale damage or collapses.

The visualisation tool displays the changes in structure and is developed as an early-warning tool, comparing automatically predicted movements against satellite measurements and indicating potential problems to users, thus allowing for early intervention.

Click here to read the BRIGITAL Case Study

About Engineering Matters

Engineering Matters is the podcast that celebrates the work of engineers who use ingenuity, practicality, science, theory and determination to build a better world. In the UK alone 5.7million people* work in engineering related enterprises from manufacturing and agriculture to construction and transportation. Their work ensures that the country has sustainable power supplies, better connectivity between cities, increasing efficiency in production processes; advanced manufacturing methods; and is embracing the digital transformations that include virtual modelling of our environment, and development of intelligent machines.