An Australian transportation agency is getting an assist from drone technology to predict and prevent landslides along a popular coastal area.
VicRoads, a government agency in charge of roadways in the state of Victoria, uses quadcopters equipped with 3D imagery cameras to collect data, giving officials a better picture of how water drainage can be used to identify trouble spots.
According to ABC News, the drone surveys could prevent future landslides along well-used coastal highways such as the Great Ocean Road, which has seen 120 landslides since 2016.
“The data is definitely helping us understand how water flows through the area and how to drain water to the right spots and away from some of these high-risk potential landslide spots,” VicRoads’ south-west Victoria regional director Mark Koliba said in an interview.
“It’s going to allow us to monitor and compare changes in the landscape over the years to come and that’s a good indication of where the risks are along the road.”
Frequent landslides not only pose a danger to the public, but also make a dent in tourism to the popular surfing region.
“We will now start using the technology on a weekly basis to know what’s happening with the soil up there and to looking at heat levels live,” Roads Minister Luke Donellan told ABC. “We just need to be on top of this because this road is so important for tourism.”
Whether its road inspection, mining or infrastructure, the drone industry is flying high Down Under. In August, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) signed a joint partnership agreement with Ruralco, a nationwide agribusiness outlet, to deploy drone-driven surveying projects for farmers.
In 2016, the Australian state of Queensland announced a $1 million agreement with Shell-owned Queensland Gas Company to launch an inspection drone program that is expected to save millions of dollars by decreasing manned, ground-vehicle inspections.
The Advance Queensland project will deploy beyond-line-of-site, fixed-wing drones that will carry several sensor packages to check for natural-gas leaks and infrastructure conditions. The inspection drones will be operated by Insitu Pacific, a subsidiary of Boeing. The aircraft will sport a ten-foot wingspan and can fly up to 2,000 feet.
Rio Tinto — a British-Australian multinational — uses drones to monitor its coal and iron ore facilities in Western Australia and Queensland.