Drones Instead of Engineers in Effort to Find Landslides

A landslide cuts a swath of destruction through the town of Santa Tecla near San Salvador, El Salvador Saturday, Jan. 13, 2001 following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that caused widespread damage across El Salvador. The Red Cross estimated that 1,200 people were missing in Santa Tecla alone after Saturday's quake.(AP Photo/La Prensa Grafica)

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Drones help protect West Virginia from landslides.

Woolpert Inc., a Beavercreek-based engineering firm, says its UAS are now monitoring landslide areas in northern West Virginia, capturing aerial images and using it to generate 3D data. The project will help better predict, and thus prevent, landslides.

Aaron Lawrence, Woolpert UAS technology developer told bizjournals.com: “This is an active weather time, with West Virginia experiencing historic rains. Access to this terrain can be challenging and viewsheds from ground level can be blocked due to overgrown vegetation.”

The company was able to complete the process in less than 24 hours. It’s worked with state departments as well as developers to evaluate slopes around proposed road construction and other development, to find places where a landslide is possible.
“UAS give us a tool to get as close to these remote and often unstable areas as possible in a quick and safe manner,” Lawrence said in a statement.
The company was one of the first commercial companies to receive clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly unmanned systems, and has since worked with a number of departments on projects mapping and land. This research has helped to mitigate the risk of landslides, and find places where hazards could be present on rural roads.

Emergent unmanned systems technology is hoped to make these processes faster, cheaper and safer than conventional engineering and surveying methods.