Geoff Zeiss, Principal at Between the Poles has provided an in-depth look at the state-of-the-art in underground infrastructure mapping.
The vision of innovators in this arena is to combine mobile lidar data collection with ground penetrating radar – GPR. This would allow the creation of a digital twin for both the underground utilities and the above ground infrastructure.
As you can see from the photo to the right there is a significant investment in sensors and computers required to mobilize one of these combined systems, but the real challenge is in interpreting the data.
I think the mobile mappers will tell you that they have their part of the mapping system covered. The challenge lies in the GPR. One of the major issues with GPR is the fact that it does not work well in clay soils. Unfortunately no one can predict ahead of time if those soils will be present on an underground infrastructure mapping project.
Of course the idealistic solution to the problem for new construction is to locate the utilities with mobile lidar and/or GPS before backfilling them, but that is not going to help for existing utilities that are already buried.
Believe it or not on many projects today contractors are refusing to take the time to adequately locate underground infrastructure. The ASCE’s new Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute – UESI is hard at work developing codes of practice that mandate underground utilities be properly located.
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