UK and China to monitor bridge movement from space

The UK’s University of Nottingham has teamed up with the huge construction conglomerate China Railway Group to develop and commercialise advanced satellite techniques to monitor the structural integrity of bridges.

The MoU triggers a direct investment of €600,000 from China Railway Group to support the project, which earlier received €2.3m from the European Space Agency.

The UK-China collaboration is expected to lead to a new high-tech company targeting the global market for satellite-based monitoring of large infrastructure, thought to be worth £10bn, the university said.

The single biggest market is China itself, which has built a large number of road and rail bridges during its rapid infrastructure build-out in the last 30 years.

The project, known as GeoSHM, uses advanced satellite navigation and positioning technology to track how environmental and other factors affect bridge stability over time.

Signing the MoU on 11 November were Nottingham university’s Sino-UK Geospatial Engineering Centre and a research unit of China Railway Group, the Major Bridge Reconnaissance and Design Institute (BRDI). Under the deal, the technology will be promoted in China.

BRDI president Tian Daoming said the collaboration would help improve how bridges are built. "China has a long history of bridge construction which dates back thousands of years and we have built a great number of novel, large and complex structured bridges in the past few decades," he said.

"Collaborating with the University of Nottingham using geospatial technology will help with the great rejuvenation of the Chinese Bridge construction."

Dr. Xiaolin Meng, Director of the Sino-UK Geospatial Engineering Centre, said the collaboration would help develop "smart transport management solutions" in the UK. "The wide-reaching range of geospatial data that we are able to provide through our research work also has massive potential in helping to develop smart transport management solutions within the big cities in the UK and China."

Photograph: The 35-km-long Hangzhou Bay Bridge, completed 2007, crosses Hangzhou Bay in eastern China (Jürgen Zeller/Wikimedia Commons)

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