Characterization of Unpaved Road Conditions Through the Use of Remote Sensing

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in 2008 there were 1,324,245 miles of unpaved road in the United States, accounting for almost 33% of the over 4 million miles of road in our national transportation infrastructure (FHWA and USDOT 2010). Local governments and transportation agencies are responsible for a large part of this unpaved infrastructure. These agencies need to be able to assess cost-effectively the condition of the infrastructure on a periodic basis in order to effectively manage these roads, and to optimize for resource allocation. Most local transportation departments do not have specialized equipment to measure surface conditions, instead relying on visual, spot measurements. Unpaved roads typically have low traffic volumes and, consequently, may receive less time and attention from local agencies with limited funding and limited human resources. These limitations often prevent thorough evaluations of unpaved roads, even though timely identification of road damage is extremely important and these roads have an important role to play in connecting farmers to markets, school buses to school children, and residents to their homes. In supporting a Cooperative Agreement between the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) and Michigan Technological University, the USDOT-RITA is assisting the Michigan Tech team to put forth the recipient's best efforts to design and develop Characterization of Unpaved Road Conditions through the use of remote sensing which promises to extend the available Commercial Remote Sensing & Spatial Information tools to enhance and develop an unpaved road assessment system. The goals of this third phase research are to develop a sensor for, and demonstrate the utility of remote sensing platform or platforms for unpaved road assessment. The platform could be a typical manned fixed-wing aircraft, a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), or both, depending on their relative strengths and weaknesses in meeting user community requirements for unpaved road assessment. To be cost efficient, the same sensor modality would be shared if more than one platform is recommended. Further, the remote sensing method chosen must be practical, economical, and effective for use by the transportation community. The sensor and platforms will allow for rapid identification and characterization of unpaved roads on an inventory level and will provide meaningful condition metrics as well as enable mission planning, control of the sensor system, and data processing. Best engineering practices will be employed to rigorously define the requirements of the system and select the best sensor and platform technology to meet the needs of the stakeholders. At the end of the project the capabilities of the prototype system or systems will be demonstrated to stakeholders for their potential implementation.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Estimated Cost - Current Fiscal: 1,331,352


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    Department of Transportation
    1200 New Jersey Avneue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Performing Organizations:

    Michigan Technological University, Ann Arbor

    Michigan Tech Research Institute, 3600 Green Court
    Ann Arbor, MI  United States  48105
  • Principal Investigators:

    Colling, Tim

    Roussi, Chris

    Brooks, Colin

  • Start Date: 20110108
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20130731
  • Source Data: RiP Project 28894

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01467883
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Department of Transportation
  • Contract Numbers: RITARS-11-H-MTU1
  • Files: RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 3:41PM