An unmanned aerial vehicle-based imaging system for 3D measurement of unpaved road surface distresses

Zhang, C and Elaksher, A 2012, 'An unmanned aerial vehicle-based imaging system for 3D measurement of unpaved road surface distresses', Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 118-129.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title An unmanned aerial vehicle-based imaging system for 3D measurement of unpaved road surface distresses
Author(s) Zhang, C
Elaksher, A
Year 2012
Journal name Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering
Volume number 27
Issue number 2
Start page 118
End page 129
Total pages 12
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Abstract Road condition data are important in transportation management systems. Over the last decades, significant progress has been made and new approaches have been proposed for efficient collection of pavement condition data. However, the assessment of unpaved road conditions has been rarely addressed in transportation research. Unpaved roads constitute approximately 40% of the U.S. road network, and are the lifeline in rural areas. Thus, it is important for timely identification and rectification of deformation on such roads. This article introduces an innovative Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)‐based digital imaging system focusing on efficient collection of surface condition data over rural roads. In contrast to other approaches, aerial assessment is proposed by exploring aerial imagery acquired from an unpiloted platform to derive a three‐dimensional (3D) surface model over a road distress area for distress measurement. The system consists of a low‐cost model helicopter equipped with a digital camera, a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and an Inertial Navigation System (INS), and a geomagnetic sensor. A set of image processing algorithms has been developed for precise orientation of the acquired images, and generation of 3D road surface models and orthoimages, which allows for accurate measurement of the size and the dimension of the road surface distresses. The developed system has been tested over several test sites with roads of various surface distresses. The experiments show that the system is capable for providing 3D information of surface distresses for road condition assessment. Experiment results demonstrate that the system is very promising and provides high accuracy and reliable results. Evaluation of the system using 2D and 3D models with known dimensions shows that subcentimeter measurement accuracy is readily achieved. The comparison of the derived 3D information with the onsite manual measurements of the road distresses reveals differences of 0.50 cm, demonstrating the potential of the presented system for future practice.
Subject Infrastructure Engineering and Asset Management
Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Keyword(s) 3-D measurement
3D information
3D models
3D road surface model
Accurate measurement
Aerial imagery
Digital imaging system
Global positioning system receivers
Image processing algorithm
Measurement accuracy
Model helicopters
Orthoimages
Pavement condition
Road condition
Road network
Road surface distress
Surface conditions
Surface distress
Test site
Three-dimensional (3D) surface models
Timely identification
Transportation management systems
Transportation research
Unpaved roads
Copyright notice © 2011 Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering
ISSN 1093-9687
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