Implementation of Unmanned Aerial System-Based (UAS) Digital Photogrammetry for Design, Risk Analysis, and Hazard Mitigation of Rock Slopes

Report No: 22-R16

Published in 2021

About the report:

This study examined whether the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles, using photogrammetry and 3D modeling software, could provide rock slope design and remediation recommendations comparable to traditional geologic structure mapping methods using handheld transit compasses and measuring tapes. The authors found that the unmanned aerial systems methods as tested are highly and immediately implementable while offering benefits in both cost and safety. Seven hazardous rock slope sites were selected across Virginia. They varied in terms of highway type, traffic volume, rock type, geologic structure, challenges to flight operations, and more. Unmanned aerial systems captured video, overlapping photographs, and some LiDAR data, from which 3D digital models, orthophoto mosaics, and more were generated. Geologic structure data were extracted virtually from the 3D models and compared with rock structure data collected using ground-based geologic field methods. Data from unmanned systems proved as statistically reliable as those from traditional rock structure data collection methods. The study recommends that VDOT take the necessary steps to accommodate unmanned aerial systems to support geologic structure mapping for rock slope design and remediation activities.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Chester F. Watts, Ph.D., P.G., M.ASCE, Elizabeth A. McClellan, Ph.D., George C. Stephenson, M.S., C.P.G.

Last updated: November 7, 2023

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