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Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) for structural health monitoring (SHM) applications can provide the data collection necessary for rapid structural assessment after an event such as a natural disaster puts the reliability of civil infrastructure in question. Technical challenges affecting deployment of such a network include ensuring power is maintained at the sensor nodes, reducing installation and maintenance costs, and automating the collection and analysis of data provided by a wireless sensor network. In this work, a new "mobile host" WSN paradigm is presented. This architecture utilizes nodes that are deployed without resident power. The associated sensors operate on a mechanical memory principle. A mobile host, such as a robot or unmanned aerial vehicle, is used on an as-needed basis to charge the node by wireless power delivery and subsequently retrieve the data by wireless interrogation. The mobile host may be guided in turn to any deployed node that requires interrogation. The contribution of this work is the first field demonstration of a mobile host wireless sensor network. The sensor node, referred to as THINNER, capable of collecting data wirelessly in the absence of electrical power was developed. A peak displacement sensor capable of interfacing with the THINNER sensor node was also designed and tested. A wireless energy delivery package capable of being carried by an airborne mobile host was developed. Finally, the system engineering required to implement the overall sensor network was carried out. The field demonstration took place on an out-of-service, full-scale bridge near Truth-or-Consequences, NM.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2009