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Rail networks can span large distances with stretches of track hundreds or thousands of kilometers long. Networks must be monitored to maintain the strict geotechnical integrity required for safe operation. Extreme weather events—floods and landslides—impact existing geohazard risks, which can threaten critical railway networks. Monitoring these extensive railway networks to the precision required for risk mitigation is a difficult task.

InSAR is able to cost-effectively cover railway networks more frequently than traditional systems and cover large swaths of track all at once. The deployment of InSAR does not require installation or access to the right of way (ROW). When using several InSAR image footprints, 3vG can cover large areas and detect many thousands of potential hazards to a rail network.

Common methods of monitoring railways rely on a combination of in-ground instrumentation and surface-level optical surveys. In either case, monitoring with these systems is limited to their install location. Measurements of tracks, berms, ROWs, and vegetation encroachment can only be done when and where equipment is present. Monitoring of railways may also require ROW access, permits, or even a stoppage in operations.

While LiDAR, drones, and aerial photography, whether piloted or autonomous, aren’t fixed in location, they come with their own set of limitations. Most notably, aerial remote sensing options quickly become expensive if entire networks need to be revisited more than a few times per year.

3vG’s InSAR satellite monitoring complements existing monitoring strategies by increasing the viewshed of risks, or by identifying emerging threats for better targeted surface-level monitoring installations.

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Monitoring Railways using InSAR

Current techniques like aerial surveying and LiDAR, whether visual, by UAV, or even using optical satellite data, are limited by weather conditions, cloud coverage, and by vegetation. In-situ equipment such as extensometers, optical survey, or GPS monitoring only provides results at the installation location and can be prohibitively expensive and time consuming to cover entire networks.

Until now, monitoring of railway networks has been challenging due to the varied terrain, topography, ground cover, and distance that these networks traverse. Moreover, damage to railways can be costly and difficult to repair, often requiring the stoppage of rail traffic. InSAR offers a precise, large-scale, and cost-effective solution for monitoring these assets in all conditions. 3vG boasts an unmatched relationship with unique satellite operators to harness vegetation-specific data sources and algorithms that mitigate the effect of varied terrain and vegetation growth.

3vG works with railway integrity management and geotechnical groups to mitigate these risks by using InSAR to detect unknown geohazards, and to monitor known risks along ROWs. InSAR monitoring is not limited by weather conditions and operates independently of daylight hours. Permits, ROW access, and operational interruptions are not necessary to conduct InSAR monitoring. Image footprints cover thousands of square kilometers and track hundreds of thousands to millions of points at millimetre-to centimetre-level precision.

3vG has developed tools to easily identify and alert on-site staff as early as possible when risks develop. 3vG boasts an unmatched data delivery turnaround of within 24 hours after image reception, leading to the fastest InSAR detection time in the industry. Paired with wide area coverage, displacement monitoring can be applied to entire rail networks, as well as shunting yards, storage areas, loading bays, and more.

Benefits of using 3vG for Railway Monitoring

Since InSAR data can be bulky, 3vG has developed unique investigation tools to help in the interpretation of InSAR data. A pre-specified distance can buffer railway assets (ROWs) to limit the data volume to only the most important areas. By limiting the amount of data required for investigation, asset safety managers and engineers can quickly find potential displacement. Furthermore, 3vG produces contours that highlight statistically significant displacement areas. Contours are generated at varying levels of significance, allowing end users to rank emerging risks and utilize maintenance budgets efficiently.

3vG’s InSAR technology has been applied to identify displacement as early as possible to enable infrastructure projects to respond and mitigate any risks associated with construction and ongoing operations since 2010. Our wide area coverage, frequent imaging repeat, and algorithms designed specifically for linear infrastructure, allow for high precision monitoring. These factors allow for advancements in risk detection such as determining the direction of displacement, identifying areas of acceleration, and highlighting areas of real displacement over measurement noise. In just one image footprint, 3vG’s InSAR technology can inform engineers of risks along the full length of the preexisting railway network, active construction zones, and all surrounding infrastructure.

InSAR data quality varies over time and spatially within individual images. For some areas, very precise displacement estimates are possible (2 mm or less). 3vG has developed the means to report any statistically significant displacement, regardless of its magnitude. In contrast, more standard approaches use simple thresholding to visualize displacement areas. For railways, where the consequences of failure are high, more data can mean better decision-making.

What is InSAR?

Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) is a satellite remote sensing technology used for mapping ground displacement across a number of sectors.

Discover the benefits of using InSAR and learn more about this fascinating technology and how it can be applied to your next project by clicking the button below.

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  • An overview of the technology
  • Benefits of using InSAR
  • Available Satellite Options
  • How 3vG can help
  • What you will get
We are very impressed with this data. We realized that we have problems right now in several areas caused by rain. We saw them shown in red on the map.”
Municipality of La Paz

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