Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Theresa Marie Ahlborn


Routine bridge inspections require labor intensive and highly subjective visual interpretation to determine bridge deck surface condition. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) a relatively new class of survey instrument has become a popular and increasingly used technology for providing as-built and inventory data in civil applications. While an increasing number of private and governmental agencies possess terrestrial and mobile LiDAR systems, an understanding of the technology’s capabilities and potential applications continues to evolve. LiDAR is a line-of-sight instrument and as such, care must be taken when establishing scan locations and resolution to allow the capture of data at an adequate resolution for defining features that contribute to the analysis of bridge deck surface condition. Information such as the location, area, and volume of spalling on deck surfaces, undersides, and support columns can be derived from properly collected LiDAR point clouds. The LiDAR point clouds contain information that can provide quantitative surface condition information, resulting in more accurate structural health monitoring.

LiDAR scans were collected at three study bridges, each of which displayed a varying degree of degradation. A variety of commercially available analysis tools and an independently developed algorithm written in ArcGIS Python (ArcPy) were used to locate and quantify surface defects such as location, volume, and area of spalls. The results were visual and numerically displayed in a user-friendly web-based decision support tool integrating prior bridge condition metrics for comparison. LiDAR data processing procedures along with strengths and limitations of point clouds for defining features useful for assessing bridge deck condition are discussed. Point cloud density and incidence angle are two attributes that must be managed carefully to ensure data collected are of high quality and useful for bridge condition evaluation. When collected properly to ensure effective evaluation of bridge surface condition, LiDAR data can be analyzed to provide a useful data set from which to derive bridge deck condition information.