Queen's University

Using LiDAR Data to Evaluate Roadside Rockmasses For Rockfall Hazards

Highways and railroads situated within rugged terrain are often subjected to the hazard of rockfalls. The task of assessing roadside rockmasses for potential hazards typically involves an on-site visual investigation of the rockmass by an engineer or geologist. This involves direct exposure of the evaluating engineer to the hazard and can create a potentially non-unique record of the assessed slope based on the skill, knowledge and background of the evaluating engineer. An alternative methodology, known as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)–based technologies have the capability to produce spatially accurate, high-resolution digital models of physical objects, known as point clouds.

Our research focuses on establish new evaluation protocols that exploit the advantages of LiDAR scanning and processing technologies. The theories and workflows presented in our research attempt to develop new methodologies for rockfall hazard management systems. The processing workflows presented in our research demonstrate the applicability of LiDAR-based field investigations into geologically and geographically distinct domains and environments. The approach of discriminating potentially unstable rockmasses in terms of geological setting and failure modes present the evaluating engineer with a vast library of analytical techniques to accurately and quantitatively assess the hazard for a particular outcrop. The aforementioned methodology pertains to all rockfall hazard evaluation management programmes, whether the target area be individual outcrops or entire transportation systems. The development of complex and dynamic rating systems for unstable rockmasses will evolve through the testing of LiDAR data in different environments and geological settings.

Lato, Matthew J., Mark S. Diederichs, D. Jean Hutchinson, and Rob Harrap. "Evaluating Roadside Rockmasses For Rockfall Hazards Using LiDAR Data: Optimizing Data Collection And Processing Protocols.Natural Hazards 60.3 (2011): 831-64.