GPR: a key tool for reducing uncertainty in asset risk management

Ground Penetrating Radar survey at the Haweswater aquaduct project using a 4 arm mount, to assess aqueduct integrity, Pendle, Lancashire, United Kingdom.


17 Mar 2022


Sam Brook

Infrastructure developers, designers and managers understand that time-dependent uncertainty relating to the condition and structure of common materials such as concrete, asphalt and ballast is a principal source of operational risk for all types of assets.

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is commonly seen as the go-to tool for utility mapping, but clients should be aware of the power of GPR to reduce uncertainty associated with the state of built assets providing future proofing and performance improvement.

Working with specialists at the cutting edge of this proven, non-destructive technique, clients are profiting from the multiple benefits that GPR can deliver in managing some of the risks of operational assets.

Sustainable technology with life cycle influence

Clean, safe, efficient, and sustainable, GPR investigations provide an opportunity to optimise cost, work schedule and environmental impact as part of built asset maintenance and upgrade schemes.

The highly mobile, remote sensing nature of the technique can substantially mitigate health and safety risks associated with the investigation of congested, trafficked or difficult-to-access locations, reducing the need to place survey personnel in high-risk environments. Experienced practitioners are using GPR technology as a highly effective screening tool to quickly identify anomalous or problem areas for further investigation. In a forensic context, GPR can help map and understand built structures and shallow ground hazards, for reliable long-term planning and prioritisation of remediation and timely intervention.

Multiple applications and benefits

From rail and road infrastructure, to critical energy, water distribution networks and coastal and flood defence structures, and residential, commercial and industrial sites, GPR can reduce uncertainty and add project value by:

  • Providing continuous mapping to inform shallow sub-surface hazards, structural condition and defects

  • Corroborating and extracting a better understanding of other pre- and post- construction data

  • Targeting, rationalising and optimising intrusive physical sampling strategies (such as coring)

  • Helping define a robust ground or structure model that can be used as the basis for efficient, ongoing management of asset inspection, monitoring, maintenance, and improvement through to end of service life

  • Providing key structural information to inform design decisions and remediation to extend the working life of critical infrastructure.

Employee conducting GPR survey at the Shard in London

GPR at The Shard

Vital element of asset management systems

GPR sampling is so rapid that collected data effectively form a continuous cross section, enabling fast 3D assessment of layer thickness, structure and near surface variability over large areas.

Intrusive work such as coring provides only a point reading or ‘stick’ data, in contrast to GPR which fills in the detail in between, picking up unseen problems and anomalies. A GPR survey allows the fast screening of large areas to identify areas of concern in order to better target and optimise intrusive work and driving sufficiency in investigation effort.

While being relatively fast and efficient to collect in areas that would exclude the use of other techniques, it requires specialist expertise to extract the full value of raw GPR data to best answer client needs. Fugro is pushing the bar in the use of GPR to better design, target and integrate all components of the ground or structural investigation to achieve greater accuracy and yield of meaningful intelligence.

Through skilled interpretation and advanced data processing by multi-disciplinary experts, insights gained from GPR data can act as a golden thread to achieving better whole life outcomes from infrastructure management.

Fugro acquires, analyses and delivers insights and advice from GPR data as a component of a number of solutions within our Ground Risk Management Framework or GRMF (below), but with a focus on investigating the performance of operational assets as part of our Structural Health Monitoring solution.

GRMF Framework_v7
Geo-Risk Management Framework

Ground risk management framework

Strategic value for 21st century challenges

Through innovation in hardware and data manipulation, we are overcoming today’s biggest challenges to successfully collect and deliver data in line with clients’ specific asset management and digital needs, as well as exacting safety and environmental regulations.

Example: Ageing structures

Fugro devised a mobile scanning rig with six antennae to survey the interior of a 1950’s built structure buried up to 300 m below ground, a concrete and steel tunnel with limited points of access. The award-winning solution saw the collection of 800 km of survey profiles from a 40 km long concrete tunnel in 8 days, working around the clock to minimise service disruption, while meeting hygiene, over-water and confined space regulations.

Example: Flood resilience

Fugro is contributing GPR expertise to help assess condition, structural risks and inform maintenance of a 330 km asset network along one of world’s busiest waterways, including the Thames Barrier flood defences

Did you know?

  • As a leading exponent of GPR surveys for over 25 years, Fugro has collected well over 2 million linear kilometres of GPR profile data from planet Earth - equivalent to travelling to the moon and back three times. This represents a dynamic legacy of ground and structural insight that helps clients to derive even greater value and confidence from other Geo-data and underpins the accuracy of asset management systems/models for better whole life decision-making.