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Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) + drone integrated system

UgCS data logger
UgCS data logger
UgCS software
UgCS software

In most cases, GPR surveys are a hard work and can be very dangerous for field personnel due to harsh topographic environments and weather conditions. This is where drones come into play. They are lightweight (compared to a manned airplane or a helicopter), easily transportable by car and capable of flying autonomously at low altitudes with high precision. Such approach assures delivery of accurate survey results, is also safer for personnel and more time-efficient.

A GPR mounted on a drone enables to see through the surface of ground, ice, rocks, freshwater, and at unsafe and hazardous environments without compromising the safety of staff, providing an additional solution for more efficient surveying.

UgCS for drone-based GPR surveys

To enable a full integration of the Ground Penetrating Radar and a drone SPH Engineering has developed a lightweight onboard data logger - the status of radar and drone's current trace is displayed on the screen of UgCS (see Fig.1); Data logging is started automatically at take-off and finished upon landing and radar's data is geotagged with GPS coordinates from the autopilot. If the drone is equipped with RTK GPS receiver, then for geotaging of the GPR trace precise coordinates will be used.

Result of the integration: the GPR status and its current trace is displayed on the screen of UgCS
Figure 1. UgCS ground control software displaying GPR status.

SPH Engineering has made hundreds of test flights with the GPR-drone integrated systems to make sure the system is optimized for real-world use.

The GPR-drone integrated system with Radar Systems Zond-12e
The GPR-drone integrated system with Radarteam Cobra Plug-In GPR

Technical specification

Currently, SPH Engineering provides 4 configurations for the GPR-drone integrated system setup. All systems are integrated with DJI M600/M600 Pro drone.

Supported GPR systems are:

Technical specifications of available configurations

  Radar Systems Zond-12e
Drone 500a
Radarteam Drone CBD
Radarteam Cobra Plug-In
SE-70 antenna
Radarteam Cobra Plug-In
SE-150 antenna
Frequency range, MHz 100-900 50-1400 20-140 20-280
Bandwidth, MHz 800 1350 120 260
Centre frequency, MHz 500 500 80 124
Size (L x W x H), cm 41 x 31 x 18 50 x 35 x 20 139 x 15 x 21 92 x 22 x 22
Weight, kg 3,2 5,2 4,9 4,6
DJI M600 Pro drone with GPR
Take-off weight
with TB47S batteries, kg 13,6 14,3 14,3 14,1
with TB48S batteries, kg 14,1 14,8 14,8 14,6
Approximate flight time
with TB47S batteries, min 18 15 15 16
with TB48S batteries, min 24 19 19 20
Maximum length of survey line (speed 2m/s)
with TB47S batteries, m 2160 1800 1800 1920
with TB48S batteries, m 2880 2280 2280 2400

For more detailed information get in touch with us: ugcs@ugcs.com.


Bathymetry of fresh water

The GPR-drone integrated system enables to measure the depth of water or profiling the bottom of freshwater rivers, lakes, ponds up to 15 meters in depth.

Benefits – possibility to do work even when the water is frozen or the surface of the water is partially covered with ice. Compared to bathymetry using a boat (equipped with echo sounders) the drone with a GPR provides better accuracy in following survey lines thanks to the inbuilt GPS and automated flight. Also, in most cases, a drone makes it a lot easier to deliver the necessary equipment to the desired area.

The results displayed in Figure 3 were gathered with the drone flying at an altitude of 20 meters above the water surface level to profile 8 meters deep frozen lake.

Image: Profiling results of a frozen lake. The 3D visualization of the lakes profile was created using GPR-Slice software (http://www.gpr-survey.com).

Geological surveys for soil layer profiling

Soil layer profiling is a standard task that needs to be done before any serious area development or construction works. The standard technique is drilling dozens of holes or conducting a GPR survey on carts.

GPR-drone integrated system delivers higher work productivity and enables safer work conditions for the personnel in cases of rough terrain.

GPR allows finding any potentially dangerous underground water streams or lakes.

Data gathered by GPR-drone integrated system flying at an altitude of 5 meters over an asphalt-covered car parking lot is displayed in Figure 4. The soil layers are clearly visible.

Image: Layers of the soil below a parking lot measured up to a depth of 36m (screenshot of Prism2 www.radsys.lv).

Mapping of underground infrastructure

Mapping of underground infrastructure is an important task before starting any construction works on previously developed territories or in cases when actual documentation and maps for underground infrastructure is missing.

Please note that the current GPR-drone integrated system does not enable to map small or thin objects such as cables or thin pipes. It is capable of detecting objects with an approximate size of 5 - 10% of depth, such as concrete sewage channels, tunnels, bunkers, etc.

Image: The GPR-drone (DJI M600Pro) integrated system.

True Terrain Following

The True Terrain Following allows the drone to accurately follow the terrain during the flight, based on data received from the laser altimeter. True Terrain Following enables the drone to fly at low altitudes (up to 1 meter) without a need to import precise Digital Elevation Model (DEM) height-map into UgCS.

Case Studies

Locateing aircraft buried under Greenland ice with GPR-UAV integrated system

An expedition was carried out in Greenland this past July that, using technology developed by Latvian company SPH Engineering – a ground penetrating radar (GPR) and drone integrated system – managed to find a World War II aircraft abandoned “in the middle of nowhere”, buried under approximately 100 meters of ice.

Read more about the experience gathered during the expediton reading the full article on the xyHt.com magazine.

GPR+drone integrated system for Archaeological investigation of Inca ruins

The system integrates a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and a drone equipped with a laser altimeter, allowing the drone to fly in the True Terrain Following mode.

The True Terrain Following allows the drone to accurately follow the terrain during the flight, based on data received from the laser altimeter. True Terrain Following enables the drone to fly at low altitudes (up to 1 meter) without a need to import precise Digital Elevation Model (DEM) height-map into UgCS.

One of the main components of the integrated system, enabling efficient survey planning is UgCS - flight planning software providing tools for easy creation and calculation of flight paths, and interpretation of acquired data in a user-friendly manner.

Learn more about UgCS Software

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