Inspection of concrete bridge structures: A case study comparing conventional techniques with a virtual reality approach

Muhammad Omer, Lee Margetts (Corresponding), Mojgan Hadi Mosleh, Lee Cunningham

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Recent high-profile collapses coupled with an aging bridge stock, increased loading, and the pressures of climate change have led to a greater focus on bridge management by policymakers. To prevent any negative socioeconomic impacts, timely inspection of bridges becomes of prime importance. Visual inspection is standard practice around the world but is subjective in nature and is influenced by many factors that can affect the accuracy of results and future decisions. The research presented here critically compares the conventional visual inspection approach with a virtual reality (VR) inspection technique that combines Lidar and VR, applied for the first time to bridges made of reinforced concrete. Inspection of the Mancunian Way, an elevated motorway in Manchester, UK, is performed by the conventional visual approach and the VR approach. Digital virtual twins of the bridge are developed. Lidar is used to capture a 3D image of the geometric surface of the bridge incorporating all its defects. The image is postprocessed and a VR application is created using Unity, a software development kit, for inspection of bridges in an immersive 3D virtual environment. The resulting VR app is evaluated subjectively by conducting a critical comparison between both methods. The results demonstrate promising improvements over the conventional inspection technique. It is intended that this research will benefit civil engineers in inspecting bridges as well as policymakers who may revise bridge inspection codes and procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number05021010
JournalJournal of Bridge Engineering
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Concrete
  • Bridge
  • Inspection
  • Virtual Reality
  • Digital Twin
  • Lidar

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  • Digital Futures


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