Take a satellite photo of the world, apply some three-dimensional mapping technology, and you get a far-out, 3-D view of the world.
That’s what UMR researchers are attempting in a project designed to identify unstable soil areas from outer space.
The effort involves the use of satellites to capture images and provide numerical information about the Earth’s surface, says Ronaldo Luna, associate professor of civil engineering. The method uses hyperspectral imaging – this is where the 3-D comes in – to record light energy as it is either absorbed or reflected. From this information, Luna and his colleagues can characterize the Earth’s terrain more accurately than with conventional, two-dimensional satellite mapping.
"This technology will mean great improvements in assessing the site characteristics and exploring the Earth," says Luna. Using the data collected from hyperspectral images, Luna, with the help of two graduate students, forms a "signature" for a certain terrain or soil composition. "We are trying to make relationships between the signatures that we capture and the properties of the soil in order to assess the effects of traffic on the terrain," says Luna. While the research is being conducted for Great Britain’s Defense and Evaluation Research Agency, Luna foresees civilian applications for the technology as well. In particular, the imaging could help engineers in road and bridge construction, he says. The technology could help engineers locate geologic features such as sink holes and hidden bodies of water. "Knowing these things about the Earth’s surface would help an engineer plan accordingly for infrastructure development."