Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Evaluating the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for collecting discontinuity orientation data for rock slope stability analysis


This study compared the reliability of discontinuity orientation data collected in 2016 using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with traditional transit compass data as a control, to evaluate UAS-generated results for rock slope stability analysis. The 2016 UAS operations were primitive by 2020 standards. Lessons learned are reviewed and related to UAS procedures common today. Two sites in Virginia were selected: a cut slope along State Route 629 (Site 1) and an abandoned shale quarry below Cove Mountain (Site 2). For logistical reasons, a different UAS was used at each of the two sites. Overlapping images from UAS flights were used to create point clouds from which discontinuity orientation data were extracted. Discontinuity data from both UAS and transit compass methods were imported into Dips 7.0, RocPlane 3.0, and Swedge 6.0 software for stereonet, statistical, and kinematic analyses. Statistical evaluation of the data sets suggested better overall reliability of UAS results for Site 2 than for Site 1. Compared to transit compass data, Site 1 UAS results are reliable for plane failure analysis only, whereas Site 2 UAS results are reliable for analyzing all types of failure. Possible reasons for this include different drone systems used at the two sites with different navigation and camera characteristics, interference from high-voltage electrical transmission lines at Site 1, and biases in human versus artificial interpretations. Compensating for some identified factors is now simpler by adding surveyed ground-control points to the model. Representative compass data should always be acquired for quality assurance.

ISSN: 1078-7275
EISSN: 1558-9161
Coden: ENGEA9
Serial Title: Environmental & Engineering Geoscience
Serial Volume: Pre-Issue Publication
Title: Evaluating the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for collecting discontinuity orientation data for rock slope stability analysis
Affiliation: Resource Development Consultants, Wellington, New Zealand
Pages: 427-447
Published: 20201109
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America, Association of Engineering Geologists, College Station, TX, United States
References: 28
Accession Number: 2021-010050
Categories: Engineering geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 4 tables, sketch maps
N38°00'00" - N38°19'60", W79°25'00" - W79°04'60"
N36°49'60" - N37°10'00", W81°04'60" - W80°45'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Kent State University, USA, United StatesRadford University, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2021, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Association of Engineering Geologists and the Geological Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 202103
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal