European funding fast-tracks drone based geotechnical investigations

October 02, 2020

European funding fast-tracks drone based geotechnical investigations

EMerald Geomodelling in partnership with SkyTEM, SDU and NGI has secured Eurostars funding for a € 1.6 M development project. The funding will help finance the development of a drone-based system and piloting with strategic partners over the next 30 months. 

Globally, 90 % of infrastructure projects encounter cost overruns of 20-50 %. This is costing society unacceptable amounts of time and money. A lack of thorough geological understanding is frequently identified as a key factor, but EMerald and SkyTem are now set to address this challenge. 

Making  good innovation great 

Today our services are based on airborne geoscanning from helicopters. In the near future our aim is to develop the solution further to use drones. Integrating a high-resolution ground investigation workflow consisting of a geoscanning system carried by a UAV, machine- learning-based data integration and a drastically reduced invasive sampling program, will increase sustainability for the construction sector.  

We have already shown that we on average can reduce the total geotechnical investigation cost of a project by 30%. Leveraging the drone-based technology will make us able to fly closer to the ground which will increase both the accuracy of our measurements and increase resolution in the first meters of the subsurface.  

Enabling new markets 

Today’s helicopter-based solution has a high entry cost and comparably low resolution. This limits the ROI for small infrastructure projects that depend on high accuracy and have limited ground investigation budgets.  

The UAV-based workflow will bridge this gap, with the solution being lower cost, faster and better in terms of accuracy and resolution. “Faster, better and cheaper is usually the typical wish that can’t be fulfilled, but with the change from a half-a-ton helicopter sensor to some dozen kilos on a drone we can make this dream reality”, says an excited and optimistic Andi Pfaffhuber, CEO of EMerald Geomodelling. “Our vision is to extend our resource saving workflow from large linear infrastructure projects to all infrastructure developments that today suffer under unsustainable traditional workflows” he continues.  

When the product is fully developed, we aim to scale it to become a new standard for any geotechnical investigating. This scaling will hopefully enable us to reduce the cost of our services by one order of magnitude making it accessible for almost any project. This development increases the sustainability of infrastructure investments, both in terms of costs and carbon emissions, in addition to make the solution easier to use in smaller projects. 

Part of the Eurostar programme 

Eurostars is a joint programme between EUREKA and the European Commission to support innovative projects led by research and development preforming small and medium-sized enterprises (R&D-preforming SMEs), supported by the European Union through Horizon 2020. EMerald is honoured to be selected for funding, ranked as number 15th out of 384 applications.