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Satellites Measure Soil Movement

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected the international engineering services firm AMEC to develop and expand the use of satellite earth observation (EO) technologies to locate and monitor large-area ground subsidence, which can damage linear infrastructure such as rail lines, pipelines, canals, sewers and roads.

AMEC's technology involves comparing monthly and yearly radar data from satellite scans of a study area in order to reveal ground elevation changes, which can be mapped in 2D or modeled in 3D.

Under the current business plan for the project, AMEC will designate Earth & Environmental offices in Europe, Canada and the United States to serve as "centers of excellence." These offices will introduce selected AMEC service-line leaders and senior project managers to earth-observation technologies. They also will use such technologies with customers who have subsidence problems that have been monitored through conventional means such as surveying.

On a localized basis, AMEC already has been developing expertise working with InSAR and satellite imagery, and has used the technology on projects to help locate earth fissures that threaten earthen dams, canals and mining facilities and to analyze and remediate slopes along highways, pipelines and railways.


Color-coded fissures are identified on rims of sinks. (Photo courtesy of AMEC Earth & Environmental)

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December 8, 2019, 8:04 am PDT

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