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S&T professor’s ‘multicopter’ improves structure monitoring

The current method of inspecting bridges for structural damage is labor-intensive and, in some instances, dangerous to all involved. Dr. Zhaozheng Yin, assistant professor of computer science at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and his engineering team have been developing a safer, more efficient solution with his latest research project, the “multicopter.”

“This system was developed initially to monitor bridge structure health,” Yin says. “Our goal is to be able to collect data autonomously using non-invasive sensor technology; to be able to detect and find patterns that could possibly tell us that information about the structure’s integrity.”

The “multicopter” gets its name from its appearance. The radio-controlled mini-helicopter has multiple propellers to lift it into the sky and is loaded with an assortment of cameras, sensors and other technology that help it to maneuver and hover. Yin’s group has created several versions of the machine, including a hexocopter (six propellers) and a quadcopter (four propellers).

While the flying machine may not be groundbreaking, it is incredibly practical.