Until now, inspectors had to examine a bridge directly on site. But the new image-processing software developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics in Kaiserslautern automatically examines photographs of a bridge for certain characteristics and irregularities, said scientist Markus Rauhut.
"Unlike a human, the tool doesn't miss any abnormalities -- even minor damage is identified and signaled," Rauhut said.
The researchers extracted metrics from photographs that included typical bridge defects in either concrete or steel bridges and stored the information in a database. When a bridge photo is loaded into the program, the software compares the features of the new image with those of the saved representative defects. If it detects any irregularities during the comparison, it marks the respective area on the photo.
Engineers said they have been using the new software successfully to inspect bridges in Italy for the past six months.