Woolpert has tasked its unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, with monitoring landslide areas and potential landslide areas in northern West Virginia.

“This is an active weather time, with West Virginia experiencing historic rains,” says Aaron Lawrence, Woolpert GIS expert and UAS technology developer. “Access to this terrain can be challenging and view sheds from ground level can be blocked due to overgrown vegetation. UAS gives us a tool to get as close to these remote and often unstable areas as possible in a quick and safe manner.”

The Woolpert team collected high-resolution aerial imagery via UAS and generated 3D data after a slope failure on a recently developed parcel of land in West Virginia, completing this process in less than 24 hours.

“The 3D data collected during this event and others like it can be used by engineers to not only identify but reinforce and stabilize these dangerous slopes,” Lawrence says.

Woolpert has conducted UAS projects with various states’ departments of transportation, departments of natural resources and oil and gas developers, identifying slopes of a designated percentage for road and highway construction, as well as land development. For instance, if a slope next to a road is greater than 30 percent, Lawrence says, there is a higher probability of a landslide to occur and/or for debris to enter a roadway corridor.

“There is value in collecting imagery before, during and after a landslide because, from the resulting data, we can better understand the mechanics of these natural disasters,” Lawrence says. “Then this information can be used to prevent future landslides, and we can better protect the public, our industries and our resources.”

About Woolpert

Woolpert is a national architecture, engineering and geospatial (AEG) firm that strategically blends engineering with technology and geospatial applications. With a dynamic R&D department, Woolpert works with business partners like Google; operates a fleet of planes, sensors and unmanned aerial systems (UAS); and continually works with advanced water technologies, asset management, building information modeling (BIM) and sustainable design. For more than 100 years and with 24 offices across the U.S., Woolpert serves the needs of federal, state and local governments; private and public companies and universities; energy and transportation departments; and the U.S. armed forces.