Evaluation of Thermal Imaging Equipment

Over the past several years, thermal imaging technology has improved and advanced so that transportation agencies have been able to develop applications for asphalt construction evaluations, energy use assessments, bridge deck de-lamination examinations, and many other thermal imaging uses that significantly enhance analysis capabilities across many work functions. The increasing benefits that agencies have been able to gain as a result of employing the technology have essentially driven more widespread use nationwide. The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) has been monitoring the progress of thermal imaging systems and recently decided that the technology had advanced to the point where it would be worthy of consideration relative to implementation at the Department. This summer, the Department was able to procure a camera with funds through a program conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). As a result, the SDDOT now needs to develop expertise with the newly acquired system and to identify a set of many other potential uses whereby the technology could be most logically employed to gain the most benefits. The objectives of this research are to: (1) assess the overall performance and functionality of a FLIR Systems model T360 thermal imaging camera recently acquired by the SDDOT; and (2) identify a list of practical thermal imaging uses that might be employed at the SDDOT that would help improve or enhance analysis capabilities within particular work functions. Research task of the project are: (1) Gain a thorough understanding of the capabilities and functionality of the FLIR T360 thermal imaging camera prior to any trial use. (2) Identify 3-5 primary applications that are diverse in nature so that a systematic evaluation of the thermal imaging camera's capabilities can be fully attained. (3) Upon review and approval of the 3-5 candidate applications by the Technical panel, seek projects or sites where trial use of the applications can be performed. (4) Perform a thorough analysis of the functionality, as well as the quality of outputs obtained by the camera during trial use across the 3-5 applications. (5) Based on the thermal imaging camera performance during the trial applications, develop a comprehensive list of potential applications where the Department might gain significant advantages through employment of the camera. (6) Meet with the Technical Panel to report findings and present a comprehensive list of potential applications for their review and approval. (7) Prepare a final report summarizing research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations. The report should include an adequate number of actual thermal imaging examples to fully illustrate capabilities inherent to the technology. (8) Make an executive presentation to the South Dakota Department of Transportation Research Review Board at the conclusion of the project.