Australia is not new to the sight of drones hovering in the skies and assisting in various tasks among private companies and even the branches of the government. During the past few years, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) announced a partnership agreement with Ruralco, an ASX listed agribusiness, to utilize drones as well as long-range sensors to streamline operations of the local farmlands, which include water management, security, and livestock safety monitoring. Drones have also been used as an alternative among various companies with regards to detection and monitoring duties. Duties, at a large scale, that may otherwise take longer time when done by humans.
That is why it was only natural for the Australian government to call upon the aid of drones when facing one of the most dangerous threats among roads and highways: landslides.
Landslides have been a thorn in the hide of road maintenance for decades. One well-placed and undetected landslide can wreak havoc amongst small neighborhoods and even big cities. These malevolent creations by the environment can destroy buildings, block off passage on vital roads, and can even make an area inaccessible from land-based transportation. That is why, at our modern times, prevention has always been the key to beating these unpredictable threats.
The roads and highways of Victoria, Australia, has been a focal point of these landslides. That is why the Australian government has initiated the use of drones with the goal of turning the tide against these catastrophic events. This drone project was created with the purpose of assisting in the prevention of future landslides along busy and critical points along coastal highways. By equipping quadcopters with 3D imagery cameras, these drones can be used to survey the landscape and collect data on the area’s water drainage, as well as spot areas that may show signs of soil erosion and damage. This can then be used to identify potential or current troubled spots where landslides may start, and preventive measures may be put in place.
This may avert potential highway accidents as well as road blockages that would otherwise impede the traffic flow between the areas connected by these roads. Great Ocean Road, for instance, a road running along the south-eastern coast of Australia, spans at a massive 243 kilometers and has seen a total of 120 landslides since 2016 alone.
VicRoads, the corporation at the helm of this endeavor, is the road and traffic authority of the state of Victoria, Australia. When asked at an interview, VicRoads’ regional director Mark Koliba had this to say: “The data is definitely helping us understand how water flows through the area and how to drain water to the right spots and away from some of these high-risk potential landslide spots. It’s going to allow us to monitor and compare changes in the landscape over the years to come and that’s a good indication of where the risks are along the road.”
Roads Minister Luke Donellan on an interview had this to say about the drone project: “We will now start using the technology on a weekly basis to know what’s happening with the soil up there and to looking at heat levels live. We just need to be on top of this because this road is so important for tourism.”
These drones, accompanied by weather stations scattered along the affected and prioritized areas, prove invaluable data and aid when it comes to determining and predicting where landslides may take place, solving the problem before it even begins.