One of the world’s leading manufacturers of vehicle-mounted lifting systems, the Palfinger Group, has founded a joint venture with two other Austrian companies with the aim of revolutionizing the inspection and maintenance of key road and rail infrastructure.
Palfinger, together with Vienna Consulting Engineers (VCE) and the surveying technology developer Angst Group, has founded the company Palfinger Structural Inspection (Structinspect). The new company intends to revolutionize the inspection of vital infrastructure, chiefly road and railway bridges, through the use of multi-sensor technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide comprehensive diagnosis while enhancing safety and efficiency.
Not only will the combined use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, multispectral sensors, AI, and three-dimensional data processing considerably shorten the time periods required for inspecting buildings and structures, it will also no longer be necessary to close these areas to traffic.
A comprehensive digital assessment of the structures’ state of repair and of any changes in the materials is made, facilitating the precise, cost-efficient and sustainable realization of the structural survey, any necessary maintenance and lifecycle planning.
The idea was born in Palfinger’s global Railway product line, where these new technical possibilities first caught the company’s attention. The concrete plan to create a separate company was then developed and realized at the ‘Palfinger 21st’corporate technology and innovation incubator.
Palfinger holds 51% in the new company, and the two technology partners hold 24.5%. The joint venture combines: Palfinger’s access to the global market, with VCE’s bridge inspection expertise, lifecycle management of civil engineering structures and customer base, and the Angst Group’s technical knowledge of state-of-the-art photogrammetry and surveying systems technology.
The current market value of bridge inspections in Europe comes to at least €100m (US$113m).
Structinspect takes the currently highly labor-intensive and time-consuming process of structural inspection services to new dimensions. Using the latest data collection technology, 3D data processing, AI-assisted data analysis and targeted planning of measures, Structinspect creates a digital 3D twin of the structure, providing a precise view of its exterior and interior state, as well as of its performance and allowing for a reliable prediction of its service life. This substantially increases the efficiency and cost-effectiveness not only of the inspection process, but also of the operation of the structure.
“We have identified great opportunities for Strucinspect in Austria and Germany alone,” said Andreas Klauser, CEO of Palfinger AG. “After all, more than 40,000 road bridges and over 25,000 railway bridges have to be inspected on a regular basis to guarantee road safety.
“Structinspect is an example of our digitization strategy and is the first tangible result of Palfinger 21st, the Group’s innovation hub that we founded around a year ago. With these new services, we will be even closer to our end customers. We are becoming a one-stop shop that not only sells hardware but services as well. Moreover, we have chosen the best partners in the market to make this possible.”