There are more than 8,000 major dams in the United States, and many of them are beyond their expected design life and require regular inspections and maintenance. The majority are embankment dams that feature outlet works structures that can be up to a half-mile long and that can be dangerous to inspect.

Responding to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers need, ERDC developed the DamBot, a robotic system capable of producing extremely detailed models of these outlet works systems. The DamBot gives inspectors a first look inside dam outlet works without exposing human operators to unknown conditions. It also collects high-resolution data that allows for more detailed inspections than currently available.

On the latest episode of the Power of ERDC podcast, we talk with Dr. Julie Rosati and Dr. Anton Netchaev about how ERDC is enabling better and safer dam inspections. Rosati is a technical director at ERDC’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory overseeing ERDC’s Civil Works Research and Development Area. Netchaev is a research computational scientist at ERDC’s Information Technology Laboratory and principal investigator for the DamBot team.

We discuss the importance and challenge of dam inspections (3:22), how the DamBot project began (6:55), DamBot’s capabilities (12:36), collaboration with USACE Districts (24:31), other agencies that can benefit from this technology (27:47), future plans including a 17-foot robotic arm (29:18), military applications (30:30), and how the DamBot can be used to operate in GPS-denied environments (31:29).


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