Innovative applications of UAV-mounted remote sensing for the geotechnical assessment of Sturt River Dam

James Barter, Steven Micklethwaite, Sam Thiele, Steve Macklin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearch


The assessment of the geological foundations of arch dams is required as part of the asset owner’s safety obligations (ANCOLD 2003). The task is often made difficult due to steep topography where arch dams are commonly constructed. Between 2013 and 2017, GHD was engaged by South Australia Water (SA Water) to examine the geological and geotechnical conditions of the Sturt River Flood Attenuation Dam (South Australia) abutment foundations. The dam was constructed between 1964 and 1966 within the Proterozoic “Sturt Tillite”. The foundations of the dam are characterised by a folded and fractured rock mass which creates complex spatial relationships between discontinuities and outcrop expression, difficult to assess in two-dimensional space. In collaboration with Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, a high resolution ortho-photogrammetric survey of the downstream dam abutments was undertaken using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in areas where traditional mapping could only be obtained by rope access methods. Monash also undertook digital geological mapping of inferred discontinuities based on the UAV imagery. The data was then used to construct a three-dimensional (3D) model of the shape and position of high-persistence discontinuities, potentially critical to abutment stability. In addition to digital data, a low cost, high value field investigation to “ground-truth” the digital data and reviewed existing geological information (including rope access scanline data, foundation mapping and rotary cored boreholes) to develop a holistic understanding of the persistent discontinuities in their geological context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationANCOLD Proceedings of Technical Groups
Subtitle of host publicationDams: Evolving with Modern Technology
Place of PublicationHobart Tasmania Australia
PublisherAustralian National Committee on Large Dams Incorporated (ANCOLD)
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventAustralian National Committee on Large Dams conference, 2018: Dams: Evolving with Modern Technology - Sofitel Melbourne On Collins, Melbourne , Australia
Duration: 11 Oct 201812 Oct 2018


ConferenceAustralian National Committee on Large Dams conference, 2018
Abbreviated titleANCOLD 2018
Internet address


  • Three-dimensional (3D)
  • Geological Modelling
  • UAV
  • Persistent Discontinuity
  • Arch Dam
  • Foundation Geology

Cite this