Project Title

Implementation of “Smart Equipment” in Field Construction

Collaborating Universities

University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716

Virginia Tech
1424 S Main St.
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Principal Investigator(s)

Meehan, Christopher, L.
University of Delaware
(302) 831-6074

Batra, Dhruv
Virginia Tech University
(540) 231-7561

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization)

US UTC $158,000 (Federal)
UD $158,000 (Match)

Total Project Costs


Start Date


Completion Date



The l-95 urban corridor in the mid-Atlantic region experiences extreme congestion. The Washington D.C. region is among the most congested in the nation, and traffic problems in Philadelphia and Baltimore are also quite common. A major source of this congestion is delays caused by traffic disturbance and disruption that are associated with new roadway construction, lane widening, or roadway repair and retrofit projects. Moving forward, to minimize these impacts, we need our road and bridge construction projects to happen “better, faster, and cheaper”.

A potentially disruptive approach to roadway construction is currently emerging that utilizes “smart“ construction equipment that is enhanced with sensors to monitor the location of construction equipment as well as the process of construction in real time. As one example. “Continuous Compaction Control” (CCC) and “Intelligent Compaction“ (IC) technology has the potential to revolutionize the ways in which soil and asphalt compaction are performed, allowing for an improved quality roadway construction that happens more efficiently with respect to time and the personnel that are involved in the construction process. Consequently, research into these technologies has been sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and this technology has been promoted at the state level through the FHWA‘s “Every Day Counts” (EDC) initiative. Additionally, many states throughout the country are currently exploring the use of CCC/IC technologies through various collaborative pooled-fund studies.

There is also significant potential for integration of three-dimensional (3D) modeling for construction means and methods into the construction process. which has the potential to yield significant gains in construction efficiency. In particular, as noted in another recent FHWA EDC initiative statement:

“3D modeling technology has been widely used by contractos on non-highway projects, and the potential for highway applications is just now being realized. An overall benefit of the technology is an increase in productivity and efficiency of construction operations. As an example, GPS-enabled construction equipment, when combined twith the 3D terrain model can run all day nad night while achieving accurate grades on the first pass. These technologies together can increase productivity by up to 50 percent for some operations.”

There is a logical intersection between using smart equipment for construction monitoring, and the enhanced use of 3D mapping and modeling tools for construction planning. means and methods, and quality assurance / quality control of the construction process. To date, research efforts in these areas have been largely focused on achieving a very specific outcome to solve a particular problem. However the future in this area is extremely bright, and will necessitate enhanced integration across various data collection, information management, and implementation platforms.

ln pursuit of this vision, a MATS UTC research team, led by the University of Delaware (UD), proposes to advance the state of the art and the state of practice in this exciting emerging area. The work that will be conducted will begin with an extensive literature review on the “state of the an“ and “state of practice“ in this area. The research team will then perform detailed statistical analysis of an existing CCC data set. which should allow for improved understanding of the types of data that can be gathered with currently available equipment, and how this data can be used to improve the construction process. The research team will also attempt to build relationships with state DOTs in the Mid-Atlantic region that are interested in the use of emerging smart equipment technologies. Once interested parties are identified. the MATS team will attempt to organize field-scale studies that utilize smart equipment to collect new data sets that advance the use of this technology. These studies will illustrate the benefit of this equipment to the various state agencies and contractors that are involved with the process. will allow for identification of the various strengths and weaknesses that are associated with currently available technologies, and will allow for development of new useful test approaches and technologies that will advance the state of the art.


Researchers from the University of Delaware (UD) and Virginia Tech (VT) will conduct research from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Prof. Meehan has extensive experience with the use of “smart machines” on active construction projects (i.e.. his previous work with continuous compaction control equipment), and will bring the perspectives of geotechnical engineering and civil engineering to the project. His work will focus on analysis of existing data sets. as well as design of new experiments and collection of data for any future projects that are identified throughout the course of the research project. Prof Batra has extensive experience with machine learning and artificial intelligence. and will bring the perspectives of computer science and advanced data analysis to the project. He will provide a supporting role for the project in the proper use of advanced statistical techniques and machine learning algorithms, and will also provide guidance into the proper design of future experiments.

Necessary project funds will be provided by separate application of each Pl to their respective MATS University Transportation Centers, as needed to support associated project activities. The funds that will be associated with the current proposal will be the primary source of support for researchers located at the University of Delaware. It is expected that there will be both informal and formal co-advisement of students located at the different universities.


The eventual outcome of research in this area will be hugely transformative for the construction industry. Where is this all going? Automated machine construction utilizing fully integrated robotic equipment. This type of equipment will allow for construction of transportation projects day and night, in a fashion that is not dependent on human labor, physical operator limitations, and errors in human judgment. The enhanced use of robotics will free up human labor to allow for further enhancements in transportation system design, and will allow for a greater focus on improving efficiency and reducing transportation system construction costs. Over time. higher quality projects will be built, at less cost, and with fewer delays and disruptions imposed on the transportation network.

In the short-term. utilization of “smart equipment” in field construction will allow for improved monitoring of projects as they are being constructed, which should yield improved quality projects in less time.

Results from project research will be published in peer reviewed journals and will be presented at large national conferences. Researchers will work collaboratively with the Delaware Department of Transportation to implement project outcomes into new DOT specifications. as appropriate. Wherever possible. new field projects will be conducted as “Demonstration Projects“, which will be open to a variety of researchers and other employees from various DOTS throughout the MATS consortium area.