Yes, the Robots Are Coming for Our Jobs, But Just the Boring Ones

Autonomous Boats Could Fix Our Crumbling Bridges

Which of America's bridges are getting ready to collapse? Ask the robot boats.

More than 600,000 bridges in the U.S. are due for inspection. Traditionally, divers are sent out to visually examine the bridges' underwater structures. The work is time-consuming, expensive, and tedious, and can be dangerous.

Karl von Ellenrieder and his team at Florida Atlantic University’s Dania Beach campus are working on a fleet of intelligent, autonomous boats that could replace many of those divers.

Using underwater cameras, the boats patrol the underwater structures of the bridges without any human supervision. If all is well, they continue on their programmed route. If damage is detected, they cluster around the area, making sure it’s well documented for the managers overseeing the boats from land. It is only at this point that human divers would need to be dispatched.

It's a symbiotic relationship. We will rely on robots to do the basic surveying, but analyzing that information and making repairs will still be best performed by human beings. 

In the near future, at least, robots won't be replacements. They’ll be teammates. 

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