The Future of Infrastructure Monitoring: A Glimpse into InSAR Technology

Have you ever imagined measuring the tiniest movements in infrastructures right from space, without the need for any on-ground devices? A novel technology, known as InSAR (or DInSAR), makes this feat possible, redefining how civil engineers monitor and manage infrastructure deformations.

What is InSAR technology?

Let’s introduce a bit of this technology. InSAR, which stands for Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry, is a space-based technology that works by analyzing the reflection of microwaves sent by satellite radars.

Focusing on the properties of the radar waves, DinSAR paints a picture of subtle ground movements with an astonishing millimeter-level precision. These shifts could be the result of natural occurrences like earthquakes or human-induced activities like construction.

What does InSAR measure?

InSAR measures ground deformation by comparing images taken over time. But it is not just about spotting the earth’s movements. The potential applications are vast, spanning geology, environmental studies, or civil engineering for example.

Can we use InSAR to forecast earthquakes or other natural hazards? Yes, but this is just one of its many uses! As said before, InSAR is incredibly useful in many industries.

What about mine site monitoring? In the last few years the use of InSAR techniques is rapidly increasing.

Although ground deformation around mines was typically measured by using just in-situ equipment, nowadays the use of this remote sensing technique in combination with in-situ equipment is growing really quickly.

Why? Simply because it provides accurate data at a lower price and as a consequence, it helps saving tons of money.

Regarding civil engineering, the use of InSAR technology provides very accurate information. Nowadays, many construction companies are incorporating InSAR as a new remote detection method.

The use of this technology in combination with in-situ equipment helps in the detection of any deformation that occurs in infrastructures. We talk about this in more detail in the following sections.

How is InSAR used in civil engineering and what are its benefits?

InSAR can pinpoint deformations in infrastructure caused by various factors.

Think about the sinking ground from extracting water, or structural shifts in buildings, bridges, or tunnels. The technology offers a bird’s eye view, literally, of deformations in everything from dams and roads to railways and airports.

The benefits of InSAR for the civil engineering realm are multifold:

  • Uninterrupted Monitoring: It can consistently monitor changes in infrastructure, aiding in risk prevention and maintenance optimization.
  • Broad and Detailed View: This tech covers expansive areas in high detail without any ground instruments. Plus, it can even provide insights into past movements.
  • Cost-Effective: No need for ground setups means reduced costs and time.
  • Enhanced Precision: InSAR complements traditional methods, offering a broader and more precise perspective.
  • Universal Access: Professionals at any stage of an infrastructure project can tap into this technology, right from planning to operation.

DinSAR is really useful in every state of an infrastructure life cycle, from the designing stage, and construction to the maintenance phase once the infrastructure is built. For instance, during a project’s design stage, InSAR can shed light on past geological behaviors of the area.

This data is pivotal for deciding on alignment, foundation, and other design elements crucial for construction and the extended lifespan of the infrastructure. During the actual building phase, it aids in site monitoring, especially in areas that traditional methods can’t cover.

Once operational, satellite radar data enriches preventive maintenance decisions.

DInSAR data acquisition and processing

You may be thinking that this technology is completely out of your reach, but fortunately, it is not.

The beauty of this era is the accessibility of satellite radar images, thanks to programs like the European Union’s Copernicus Programme, which houses the Sentinel-1 satellites.

Another upcoming satellite radar image source will be NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar), developed by NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Both Sentinel-1 and NISAR have open access policies.

Related to InSAR images data processing, companies like Detektia are stepping up to fine-tune this data.

They don’t just provide analysis; they’re revolutionizing it with artificial intelligence. Their systems can issue early warnings throughout an infrastructure’s life, simplifying decisions at each stage.

Detektia has managed to take advantage of InSAR data to create a new infrastructure structural health monitoring system. With Detektia’s technology, integrating this advanced data into existing infrastructure management software becomes effortless.

Their API is built to mesh seamlessly with popular tools, ensuring users can leverage the best of satellite radar without shifting platforms. They have also developed an all-in-one structural health monitoring software called EyeRADAR, a software-as-a-service platform that integrates InSAR data custom IA algorithms.

In a nutshell, the future of infrastructure monitoring looks up—quite literally—to the stars, with technologies like InSAR leading the way and companies like Detektia ensuring we make the most of it.