Use of a remotely piloted aircraft system for hazard assessment in a rocky mining area (Lucca, Italy)
The use of remote sensing techniques is now common practice in different working environments, including engineering geology. Moreover, in recent years the development of structure from motion (SfM) methods, together with rapid technological improvement, has allowed the widespread use of cost-effective remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) for acquiring detailed and accurate geometrical information even in evolving environments, such as mining contexts. Indeed, the acquisition of remotely sensed data from hazardous areas provides accurate 3-D models and high-resolution orthophotos minimizing the risk for operators. The quality and quantity of the data obtainable from RPAS surveys can then be used for inspection of mining areas, audit of mining design, rock mass characterizations, stability analysis investigations and monitoring activities. Despite the widespread use of RPAS, its potential and limitations still have to be fully understood.
In this paper a case study is shown where a RPAS was used for the engineering geological investigation of a closed marble mine area in Italy; direct ground-based techniques could not be applied for safety reasons. In view of the re-activation of mining operations, high-resolution images taken from different positions and heights were acquired and processed using SfM techniques to obtain an accurate and detailed 3-D model of the area. The geometrical and radiometrical information was subsequently used for a deterministic rock mass characterization, which led to the identification of two large marble blocks that pose a potential significant hazard issue for the future workforce. A preliminary stability analysis, with a focus on investigating the contribution of potential rock bridges, was then performed in order to demonstrate the potential use of RPAS information in engineering geological contexts for geohazard identification, awareness and reduction.