Characterization of Unpaved Road Conditions through the Use of Remote Sensing
A cooperative agreement between Michigan Technological University (MTU) and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (USDOT/OST-R)
Effective Unpaved Road Condition Assessment and Management - The AURA System
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) stated in 2012 that there are over 1.4 million miles of unpaved roads in the United States, over 1/3 of the U.S. total (1). A study reported in 2000 indicated that over 512,000 miles of unpaved roads were on tribal lands, 84% of total tribal roads (2). Unpaved roads, both gravel and unimproved roads, are a critical transportation resource that provide both rural and suburban transportation networks, including farm-to-table transition of food resources, getting children to school, and emergency routing after natural disasters, among many other users. Unpaved road management is often the responsibility of local governments and transportation agencies, which are in need of rapid, repeatable methods that are cost-efficient and easily deployable in a budget-limited environment. In many cases, agencies do not have an up-to-date or complete inventory of the mileage of unpaved roads, making this an additional pressing need.
To address these needs, a project team led by the PI, Colin Brooks, applied for and received a Phase III grant entitled “Characterization of Unpaved Road Conditions through the Use of Remote Sensing” from the USDOT Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R) under the Commercial Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Program. This first phase of the project led to development of a cost-effective, accurate system for inventorying unpaved roads and assessing their condition, using primarily an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platform, now named the Aerial Unpaved Road Assessment (AURA) system. This included an on-board high-resolution 36-megapixel digital camera that combined 3D processing software, distress detection analysis algorithms, and GIS output that could be used for asset management in geospatial decision support tools.
For the second phase of the project, our team is currently working on a logical follow-on project to the previous effort so that our working prototype technologies can be taken from a useful, successfully demonstrated research-level tool to a commercially-available, implemented system available to transportation agencies for objective unpaved road assessment on a day-to-day, as needed basis. A particular focus is on making the system rapidly deployable for cost-effectively detecting deficiencies in the unpaved road components of the transportation system, including preventing of further damage to the transportation network through timely management of unpaved road assets.
An aggressive, professional outreach program is planned to enable local, state, and tribal transportation agencies to understand the capabilities and values of the technologies for evaluating and managing their unpaved roads as part of their day-to-day methods. This will be accomplished by continued work with a professional outreach firm, Integrated Global Dimensions, to reach more potential users; cooperation with one or more private-sector companies who have expressed interest in helping with commercialization to make the system available on a day-to-day basis; continued close collaboration with transportation agencies such as partners in South Dakota; improvements to the distress detection software; and a series of field demonstrations in at least three states. Tasks to complete this goal will enable the AURA system to be a commercially-ready product so that transportation agencies can more efficiently assess and manage this critical transportation resource.
1. FHWA and USDOT. Highway statistics 2012. Highway Statistics Publications. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2012.
2. Condition and performance of transportation serving federal and Indian lands. United States Federal Lands Highway Program. 2000. U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Lands Highway Program. 18pgs.
News and UpdatesNov. 3, 2016
Phase II Final Report is Available - Phase II Final Report is Available
Sept. 30, 2016
Deliverable 9-A: Professional Outreach for Implementation to a Nationwide Audience Report Available - Deliverable 9-A: Professional Outreach for Implementation to a Nationwide Audience Report Available
June 14, 2016
Aerial Unpaved Road Assessment Webinar - Introduction to Transportation Asset Management Concepts (Dr. Tim Colling and Mr. Colin Brooks, Michigan Technological University)
Nov. 4, 2015
UAS Reno 2015 Presentation - Colin Brooks from MTRI presenting at UAS Reno 2015. Watch the presentation on YouTube.
Oct. 16, 2015
30th Annual Regional Local Road Conference - MTRI Scientists will be demonstrating the Aerial Unpaved Road Assessment (AURA) system, which includes the collection and processing of data, which creates automated detection of road distresses for use in unpaved road asset management.
Oct. 15, 2015
Deliverable Deliverable 6-E is now available! - Deliverable 6-E: Adaptation of AURA Remote Sensing Processing System Software to Include Additional Features and for Commercial Readiness
June 9, 2015
Unpaved roads AURA system demo in Salina, KS, June 17, 2015 from 9am to 4pm CDT - please register! - Unpaved roads AURA system demo in Salina, KS, June 17, 2015 from 9am to 4pm CDT - please register!
May 13, 2015
3rd Technical Advisory Meeting Minutes Posted - Meeting Minutes from the Third Technical Advisory Committee Meeting on March 24, 2015.
March 30, 2015
Deliverable 5-B: Update on URCAS Requirements, Sensors, and Platforms is now available! - 5-B: Update on URCAS Requirements, Sensors, and Platforms
Jan. 27, 2015
New Publication "Collecting Decision Support System Data Through Remote Sensing of Unpaved Roads" - Dobson, R. J., Colling, T., Brooks, C., Roussi, C., Watkins, M. K., & Dean, D. (2014). Collecting Decision Support System Data Through Remote Sensing of Unpaved Roads. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2433(1), 108-115.
Jan. 26, 2015
Deliverable 8-B: Final Report is now available! - Deliverable 8-B, "Final Report," is now available for download.
July 1, 2014
URCAS featured as part of South Dakota roads assessment - Sioux Falls, SD TV station KELO features the Unsurfaced Road Condition Assessment System (URCAS) as part of a larger story on applications of "Surveying the Land from the Air".
June 11, 2014
New website! - Check out our new website explaining the Unsurfaced Road Condition Assessment System (URCAS): www.UnpavedRoadsRemoteSensing.com
June 11, 2014
Upcoming demonstration! - There will be an Unsurfaced Road Condition Assessment System (URCAS) demonstration on June 26 from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM CDT in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. To register, please click on the Eventbrite above available through "Upcoming demonstration!".
Feb. 25, 2014
Performance Evaluation of Recommended Remote Sensing System now available! - The ultimate goals of this program were to design, build, and test a prototype remote sensing-based unpaved road condition assessment system that can compete with manual methods, and to incorporate these measurements into a decision support system (DSS) to aid in managing unpaved road networks. A number of requirements were established for the performance of this system; previously established requirements are reviewed and the performance our assessment system are reported in this document. The criteria for such a system consists of a flight-worthy sensor for collecting data, a software suite to process these data to extract road distresses, and RoadSoft® GIS, a tool for road asset management decision support and data visualization.
Feb. 6, 2014
Michigan Tech researchers equip "drones" with technology to monitor road conditions - HOUGHTON, MI - Researchers at Michigan Technological University are looking to use drones to help state workers and contractors inspect Michigan’s gravel roads.
Feb. 3, 2014
Implementation Assessment of Unpaved Road Condition presentation - January 2014 overview of the state of the Unpaved Road Conditions Project
Jan. 14, 2014
Michigan Tech Researches Feasibility of Drone Use in Transportation - MTRI Unpaved Roads Project profiled in Michigan Tech's "Tech Today"
Dec. 18, 2013
Deliverable 7-A Now Available! - Deliverable 7-A, "Plans for Field Deployment of Recommended System for Remote Sensing of Unpaved Road Conditions," is now available for download.
May 1, 2013
Deliverable 6-C Now Available - Deliverable 6-C is now available for download.
Nov. 5, 2012
Deliverable 5-A Now Available - Deliverable 5-A is now available for download.
Nov. 5, 2012
Deliverable 6-B Now Available - Deliverable 6-B is now available for download.
Nov. 1, 2012
Video of field deployment & 3D reconstruction - A video showing the collection, the aerial view, and the 3D reconstruction.
Aug. 8, 2012
Deliverable 3-A Now Available - Deliverable 3-A is now available for download.
Aug. 8, 2012
Deliverable 4-A Now Available - Deliverable 4-A is now available for download.
Aug. 8, 2012
Deliverable 6-A Now Available - Deliverable 6-A is now available for download.
March 16, 2012
Deliberable 2-A Now Available - Deliverable 2-A is now available for download.
Nov. 30, 2011
Technical Advisory Committee updated - The Technical Advisory Committee membership and page were updated.
Nov. 28, 2011
Deliverable 1-A Now Available - Deliverable 1-A: "Requirements for Remote Sensing Assessments of Unpaved Road Conditions Report" is now available for download!
Oct. 13, 2011
Website updated with tasks, deliverables, background - 'About the Project' and 'Tasks and Deliverables' and 'Technical Advisory Committee' were added to the project website.
Sept. 23, 2011
Project timeline added - The project timeline, showing the schedule of various tasks, has been added to the public website.
Sept. 21, 2011
Project website in development! - The project website is under construction; don't mind the mess.