Smart monitoring of Köhlbrand Bridge using intelligent sensors and mobile robots


Safety and reliability, thus the life-cycle performance, of civil infrastructure is crucial to societal health, safety, security, and well-being. Damage and deterioration of civil infrastructure, affecting structural reliability and safety, occur as a result of operation failures, poor design, mechanical impact, or physical destruction due to man-made events or extreme natural phenomena, the latter representing one of the most visible consequences of climate change. Monitoring systems deployed for civil infrastructure systems in an attempt to assess damage and deterioration at early stages usually rely on sensors that transmit data to centralized server systems for data analysis. Using centralized servers, however, requires a lot of data to be transmitted and renders the server a "single source of failure", while the sensors installed in the structure do not allow intelligent, autonomous, in-situ data analyses.

Project goals and expected results

Taking Köhlbrand Bridge (Figure 1) as a reference structure, this project aims to transfer concepts of intelligent sensors and mobile robots from research into engineering practice. The intelligent sensors designed at IDAC will be installed at Köhlbrand Bridge to autonomously analyze the structural condition of the bridge. The sensors are capable of autonomously collecting and analyzing data obtained from the bridge through embedded algorithms that are based on artificial intelligence techniques. Although the concept of intelligent sensors means a substantial advancement compared to conventional approaches, it is associated with installation costs and may suffer from limited spatial resolution, as the sensors are installed at fixed locations. Therefore, as a supplement to the intelligent sensors, maneuverable quadruped robots equipped with sensors for collecting, processing, and analyzing structural data are introduced. The mobile robots will also be validated in Köhlbrand Bridge. As first results demonstrate, it can be expected that a minimum deployment of mobile robots yields the same structural information as an array of intelligent sensors installed at fixed locations. Furthermore, it is expected that the accuracy of the mobile robots is comparable to the intelligent sensors, marking an advance towards employing fully autonomous robotic fleets for monitoring of civil infrastructure.

Project partner

  • Hamburg Port Authority (HPA)


Professor Dr. Kay Smarsly
Hamburg University of Technology
Institute of Digital and Autonomous Construction
Blohmstraße 15
21079 Hamburg
Email: kay.smarsly(at)