Recharging Bridge Sensors With Drones

Elizabeth Basha, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of the Pacific wants to use drones to recharge batteries on wireless sensor networks, particularly sensors that track potential structural damage on bridges.

Wireless sensor networks are being deployed to monitor a wide range of environments. The EU funded GENESI project is working on the design of a wireless sensor network to monitor the structural health of large infrastructure like bridges and historic monuments. These early-warning sensors can save lives, but not if they aren’t fully charged.

Most bridge sensors in urban areas are generally connected to power grids or solar panels. But in remote areas, batteries running wireless sensor networks must be manually changed. To get the best performance, batteries must either be replaced on a regular basis which wastes the battery life or risk changing the batteries when they receive a low voltage warning. The potential maintenance cost of replacing batteries for several hundreds or thousands of nodes for wireless sensors becomes cost-prohibitive. This is where the drones come into play. … (read more)