Concrete silo processed with gNext photogrammetry software for better infrastructure inspection

Switching from Manual to Digital Infrastructure Inspections

Infrastructure inspections ensure the safety and reliability of our society’s critical infrastructure. This includes bridges, highways, airports, railroads, culverts, building facades, telecommunication structures, signs, and high-mast light poles. These assets are crucial in transportation, communication, and overall development. Experts predict we will experience more infrastructure failures within the next twenty years.

Infrastructure inspections proactively address future challenges by identifying potential issues and areas of concern while ensuring compliance with regulations. However, there are many limitations to traditional inspection methods, i.e., resource constraints, increased risk, and challenges with data accuracy.

Transitioning to digital infrastructure inspections reduces risk, streamlines processes, enhances data accuracy, and empowers asset owners to make better business decisions regarding critical infrastructure. This article will explore the various aspects of digital and manual inspections, providing valuable insights for those contemplating transitioning from manual to digital inspection of their infrastructure assets.

concrete silo infrastructure inspection with gNext
3D Digital Infrastructure Inspection and Management: Concrete Silo

Challenges of Manual Infrastructure Inspection

There is a need for digitizing infrastructure to streamline inspection processes. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that fixing our society’s degrading infrastructure will cost upwards of $4.5 trillion.

Understanding the challenges of manual inspections can give your organization the insight it needs to assess the benefits of digital solutions. Some of the difficulties associated with manual inspection include:

  1. Resource Intensive: Manual inspections involve allocating many resources, like time commitments from personnel, high operational costs, the need for specialized equipment (ex., scaffolding, bucket trucks, snooper cranes, etc.), and deploying multiple vehicles.
  2. Extended Project Timelines: Traditional inspections usually take longer to complete due to limitations of human labor, potentially delaying decision-making processes and project timelines.
  3. Safety Concerns: Personnel conducting manual inspections often face hazardous conditions, like exposure to traffic hazards, working at heights, and confronting adverse weather conditions, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
  4. Lack of Centralized Information: Most manual inspection processes lack a single centralized location for organizing, reviewing, inspecting, and collaborating during the inspection review process. This can lead to inefficiencies, miscommunications, and difficulty managing comprehensive datasets.
  5. Increased Downtime: Manual inspections contribute to increased downtime in critical infrastructure, like lane closures for transportation inspections and power-off periods for utility inspections. Downtime can disrupt regular operations and impact the overall functionality of the infrastructure.
  6. Reliance on Manual Data Collection: Manual data collection is time-consuming and prone to errors, potentially impacting the accuracy of inspection results.

Benefits of Transitioning to Digital Infrastructure Inspections

Transitioning from manual digital infrastructure inspection can have many benefits that enhance your organization’s efficiency, safety, and overall performance. Some benefits that are associated with manual inspection include:

  1. Resource Savings: Minimize how many resources you have to use, optimizing manpower, equipment, and financial investments.
  2. Time Savings: Complete inspections at an accelerated pace, ensuring faster and more efficient data collection and analysis.
  3. Increased Safety: Prioritize safety with digital inspections by leveraging advanced technologies to minimize on-site human risks.
  4. One Centralized Hub: Enhance organization and accessibility with a centralized source of truth. When using tools like gNext, asset managers can experience the convenience of a single centralized platform for all data, 3D models, annotations, and collaborative efforts.
  5. Zero Downtime or Revenue Loss: Ensure continuous operations and eliminate the risk of revenue loss and operations disruptions that may cause downtime.
  6. Streamlined Workflows: Simplify tasks and workflows, reducing complexities associated with traditional methods.
  7. Remote Viewing: View better angles of hard-to-reach areas of infrastructure assets, all from the comfort of your office.
  8. Advanced Analytics and Reporting Capabilities: Digital inspections can provide accurate and advanced data analytics, giving asset owners comprehensive insights into the condition and performance of infrastructure. Monitor and track changes over time with precision, allowing for proactive maintenance and strategic decision-making based on historical data. Generate detailed and customized reports that provide in-depth information crucial for decision-making and strategic planning.
concrete silo infrastructure inspection with gNext
3D Digital Infrastructure Inspection and Management: Concrete Silo defects
concrete silo infrastructure inspection with gNext, using AI-powered defect detection.
3D Digital Infrastructure Inspection and Management: Concrete Silo defects

Overcoming Hurdles of Manual to Digital Inspections

Transitioning from manual to digital inspections may seem daunting, but the benefits outweigh the initial investment.

Cost Concerns

A common concern in adopting digital inspection methods is the cost. However, compared to traditional manual inspections, the costs associated with going digital are significantly lower.

“Many organizations hesitate to embrace digital inspections because of concerns about costs. But, when you consider factors such as drone purchasing, employee flight training, and drone processing software, you’ll find that these expenses are still just a fraction of what most traditional inspections cost.” Russ Ellis, President at gNext.

According to an AASHTO special report for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MI DOT), cost comparison research on the use of drones and manual inspection revealed there was potential for 74% cost savings by using digital means, like drones.

Data from the benefits of UAS for in-service bridge inspections from the Michigan Department of Transportation, shared by AASHTO

Consider the costs as strategic investments that could result in long-term data accuracy, efficiency, and infrastructure management gains.

Time Constraints

Another concern in switching to digital inspection methods is the time constraints. Time is a valuable resource in any industry. Switching to digital inspection methods can be efficient when you have a reliable partner. Once implemented, the right inspection tool provides features that simplify and automate the planning process. With just a few clicks, inspectors are able to save time by scheduling inspections, organizing equipment rentals, planning work zones, detours, and traffic control measures.

Since digital inspection platforms enable real-time collaboration, this eliminates the need for multiple site visits or meetings to discuss inspection plans. Manual inspections often require heavy equipment setup, causing lane closures and inconveniences to society. Digital inspections using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) help alleviate the need for extensive closures or heavy equipment, minimizing disruptions and allowing inspections to be completed efficiently.

Since manual inspections involve time-consuming processes like recording on paper forms or spreadsheets, digital inspection tools allow inspectors to capture data directly using mobile devices and specialized software, eliminating paperwork and reducing data entry time.

Generating reports after completing a manual inspection can be a tedious task that takes up valuable time. With digital inspections, reports can be automatically generated based on the collected data, saving significant effort and ensuring accurate documentation.

By embracing digital inspection methods, organizations can overcome the time constraints associated with manual inspections while improving efficiency and accuracy in their overall inspection processes.


Manual infrastructure inspections pose their fair share of challenges when it comes to accessibility. Digital inspections using UAS can significantly improve accessibility in areas like roadway traffic and traffic control, waterways, confined spaces, and asset design. These systems provide quicker and easier access to hard-to-reach locations that may be inaccessible to humans.

Using UAS gives more coverage in less time without the need to reposition trucks or workers. This minimizes the chances of missed defects during inspections and reduces the need for repeat trips. With better access to assets like bridges, routine inspections can capture key surfaces that might be overlooked otherwise, such as a box-girder bridge.

Digital inspections using UAS enable data collection with specialized sensors, including thermal imagery, LiDAR, and 3D modeling. This allows for more comprehensive inspections and provides valuable data for analysis. Additionally, AI technology can automate inspection by programming drones to operate autonomously. This leads to earlier identification of problem areas and faster response times.

All in all, digital infrastructure inspections increase the lifespan of assets, speed up inspections and save time, improve the safety of inspections, identify problems earlier, and save money on more efficient inspections.

Digital Ease with gNext

While our infrastructure continues to age and the costs of maintaining these assets increase, asset owners should consider all available tools when determining how to best monitor the ongoing condition of their assets. gNext offers a comprehensive solution that leverages advanced technologies to optimize digital infrastructure inspection.

gNext enhances the safety and sustainability of global infrastructure through the gNext Platform. Our platform provides powerful analytics combined with AI and machine learning to provide faster, more accurate digital infrastructure inspections. With gNext, you can easily switch from manual inspections to digital inspections. Say goodbye to time-consuming processes and hello to streamlined efficiency.

Automatic Processing

Switching to gNext is easy, thanks to its automatic processing capabilities. Featuring over 40 pre-defined asset types, the platform eliminates the need for photogrammetry skills or experience. This ensures a smooth and efficient workflow for asset management and inspections.

Centralized Repository

Experience the convenience of a centralized hub with gNext. All documents, images, data, and annotations are secure in one centralized repository. This streamlined approach enhances access, collaboration, and communication within your teams.

AI-Powered InspectAssist™

Leverage the power of artificial intelligence with gNext’s InspectAssist feature. This innovative tool saves teams valuable time by identifying more defects and points of interest during inspections. The result is increased accuracy and thoroughness in your asset inspection.

No Download Required

The hassle of downloads can be a time waste. gNext requires no hardware or software downloads. A decent internet connection and a browser are all you need to ensure flexibility and accessibility in your digital processes.

Easy Implementation

gNext implementation is a straightforward process. The platform seamlessly integrates into existing workflows, allowing for a quick transition without significant disruptions. With its user-friendly design and intuitive features, gNext is the ideal solution for enhancing digital ease in inspections and asset management.

Moving from manual to digital infrastructure inspections is essential for organizations looking to enhance efficiency, safety, and overall performance. By leveraging advanced technologies like gNext, organizations can stay ahead of future challenges while ensuring the safety and reliability of society’s critical infrastructure assets.

Request a demo to see how seamless the transition to a digital inspection platform can be. Follow us on LinkedIn to learn more about how gNext can help organizations future-proof critical infrastructure.

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