The practice of using different kinds of sensors to gather actual data about underground utilities became more and more popular. Different technologies are used widely for this task: EMI tools, GPR, cable locators, water leaks detectors, etc. In general, combinations of these tools allow for the location of almost any type of utilities and underground objects in the first few metres under the surface. However, when used from the surface (from the cart or as handheld devices) they have limited productivity, and scanning of large areas can require significant time.
The idea of using UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles, drones) to carry appropriate sensors to locate underground objects and utilities seems obvious. However, industry players lack strong experience and knowledge about the capabilities of airborne sensors, or information about the limitations of sensors combining with UAV. Another important point is the methodological aspects of airborne sensors application – how to plan UAV flights, data processing, expected precision of localization, etc.
To fill the gaps, SPH Engineering has built a test range with buried utilities (pipes) of different diameter, material and depth, as well as other objects, and conducted extensive tests of different available sensors over known targets.