Machine learning techniques are being applied to many data-intensive problems because they can accurately provide classification of complex data using appropriate training. Often, the performance of machine learning can exceed the performance of traditional techniques because machine learning can take advantage of higher dimensionality than traditional algorithms. In this work, acoustic data sets taken using a rapid scanning technique on concrete bridge decks provided an opportunity to both apply machine learning algorithms to improve detection performance and also to investigate the ways that training of neural networks can be aided by data augmentation approaches. Early detection and repair can enhance safety and performance as well as reduce long-term maintenance costs of concrete bridges. In order to inspect for non-visible internal cracking (called delaminations) of concrete bridges, a rapid inspection method is needed. A six-channel acoustic impact-echo sounding apparatus is used to generate large acoustic data sets on concrete bridge decks at high speeds. A machine learning data processing architecture is described to accurately detect and map delaminations based on the acoustic responses. The machine learning approach achieves accurate results at speeds between 25 and 45 km/h across a bridge deck and successfully demonstrates the use of neural networks to analyze this type of acoustic data. In order to obtain excellent performance, model training generally requires large data sets. However, in many potentially interesting cases, such as bridge deck defect detection, acquiring enough data for training can be difficult. Data augmentation can be used to increase the effective size of the training data set. Acoustic signal data augmentation is demonstrated in conjunction with a machine learning model for acoustic defect detection on bridge decks. Four different augmentation methods are applied to data using two different augmentation strategies. This work demonstrates that a "goldilocks" data augmentation approach can be used to increase machine learning performance when only a limited data set is available. The major technical contributions of this work include application of machine learning to acoustic data sets relevant to bridge deck inspection, solving an important problem in the field of nondestructive evaluation, and a more generalized approach to data augmentation of limited acoustic data sets to expand the classes of acoustic problems that machine learning can successfully address.



College and Department

Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





bridge defect detection, convolutional neural networks, data augmentation, delaminations, machine learning



Included in

Engineering Commons