Engineers Australia

Unmanned aerial vehicles(UAV) and their continuing application to geotechnical slope risk assessment and design

Jason Hellmuth, Andrew Hunter and Andrew Barclay


Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) data capture is becoming a ubiquitous tool in the geotechnical practitioner’s field kit, but the potential benefits are often not fully realised. UAV data capture has advanced rapidly over the last few years, both in the field and post-processing methods. This includes the application of laser scanning technology to UAVs and the incorporation of 3D modelling capabilities within many different software packages. However, there are still issues that need to be considered such as the required precision and accuracy of spatial data, how to achieve this precision and accuracy, the proximity constraints and legal restrictions on using UAV data capture in certain environments. This paper looks at the current state of play in UAV technology as it applies to geotechnical engineering and engineering geology. It provides examples of typical planning and workflow considerations for using UAV captured data, based on the authors’ own experience. Finally, it describes two case studies where UAV technology has been utilised as an integral part of the geotechnical analysis, using an in-house software application which utilises a commercially available 3D physics engine.