Slope Stability Monitoring: Common Methods and the Exciting Tech-Led Future

Slope stability monitoring is an important field of study that has been gaining traction in recent years. The main purpose of slope stability monitoring is to identify potential hazards and take steps to mitigate them before they become a problem. In this post, we’ll take a look at the current trends in slope stability monitoring, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods currently in use.

We’ll also explore the future of slope stability monitoring and discuss some possible technological advancements that could make this process even more efficient.

What is slope stability monitoring and why is it important?

Slope stability monitoring is the process of observing and measuring changes in slope angles or ground movements over time. It can be used to detect potential instabilities, assess the safety of slopes, and track the progress of stabilisation measures.

There are several reasons why monitoring the stability of slopes is important:

  • To ensure public safety: Slopes can be unstable and pose a risk to people and property if they are not monitored and managed properly.
  • To protect infrastructure: Slopes can collapse and damage roads, railways, and other infrastructure if they are not stable.
  • To minimise environmental impacts: Unstable slopes can cause landslides, which can lead to pollution and other environmental damage.

The main purpose of slope stability monitoring is to identify potential hazards and take steps to mitigate them before they become a problem.

Advantages and disadvantages of slope stability monitoring methods

There are a variety of methods that can be used to monitor slope stability. The most common method is ground-based monitoring, which involves using sensors to measure factors like rainfall, temperature, and soil moisture.

Some of the most common methods are:

Inclinometers

Inclinometers are devices that measure the angle of a slope.

✓ Relatively inexpensive and easy to use

✗ Can only be used on small slopes

✗ Accuracy can be affected by factors such as vegetation

Ground-based radar

Radar is a mature technology that has been used for decades to monitor slopes.

✓ Accurate and reliable

✗ Expensive

✗ Requires trained personnel to operate

Satellite-based radar

Satellite-based radar is a newer technology.

✓ Can cover large areas at once

✗ Typically not as accurate as ground-based radar

✗ Can be affected by atmospheric conditions.

GPS

GPS is a mature technology, increasingly being adopted for slope stability monitoring.

✓ Widely available

✓ Relatively inexpensive

✗ Typically not as accurate as radar

✗ Can be affected by factors such as multipath interference

Kurloo combines the key advantages of GPS and satellite technology with the power and cost effectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT). Infused with over 25 years’ of geodetic, geospatial and IT expertise, Kurloo’s end-to-end monitoring system is ideally suited to long term monitoring of hard-to-reach places such as slopes and embankments.

A real-world case study for smarter slope stability monitoring

Monitoring slope stability comes with the challenge of often being in hard-to-access areas which potentially pose a significant safety risk to personnel. Across large areas, slope stability is difficult to keep a constant eye on, and continuous monitoring becomes costly.

This was all too familiar to Queensland Rail (QR), which provides critical transportation infrastructure to support a vast number of industries across the state of Queensland, Australia. QR discovered that some sections of the rail line on the Toowoomba Range were of higher geohazard concern (like rock falls) and required monitoring to effectively manage the risk.

Kurloo sensor placement on the embankment for QR

To monitor slope stability at the hardest-to-reach points along the network, Kurloo sensors were placed on the embankment. These measured daily 3D displacement, reducing the need for manual intervention or measurement and better managing cost for Queensland Rail to acquire the data.

Kurloo helped QR by providing:

  • a cost-effective, integrated system to monitor a slope in a hard-to-reach place
  • scientific understanding to prevent future downtime/losses
  • data for improved decision-making
Monitoring sensors in Kurloo Nest platform, keeping a watchful eye for potential risks to nearby residential areas.

Kurloo gave us confidence in the embankment stability at this site. In the shorter term this technology enables us to monitor movement of our slope, overlaid by rainfall, to automatically alert of a heightened risk of failure. This informs when inspections are required and when we should be closing the track.”

Kimberley Bracher, Sr Asset Maintenance Engineer, QR

For more details about Kurloo, download our product brochure.

The future of slope stability monitoring

The future of slope stability monitoring will be shaped by the continued development of new technologies, such as drones and artificial intelligence. These new technologies will make it possible to monitor slopes more accurately and efficiently, which will help to improve public safety and minimise environmental impacts.

In addition, the use of data from slope stability monitoring will become more widespread as the benefits of using this data to improve decision-making become more widely recognised.

Several technological advancements are set to improve the efficiency of slope stability monitoring. For example, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyse data collected by sensors could help to identify potential hazards more quickly. The future of slope stability monitoring is set to be more efficient and effective thanks to these new technologies.

Overall, slope stability monitoring is a vital tool for ensuring the safety of our infrastructure. The current trends suggest that this field will continue to grow in importance in the years to come. With the right tools and technologies, we can make sure that our slopes are safe and stable for years to come.

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