Geospatial science and underground mapping can predict geohazards

Auracle Remote Sensing has developed a technology that can map the Earth’s surface down to bedrock.

This two-part image helps monitor an underground geological problem. The top shows what is under the surface. The bottom shows a

This two-part image helps monitor an underground geological problem. The top shows what is under the surface. The bottom shows a "creep" pattern indicating a massive, yet typically invisible, slope failure. — Images courtesy Auracle Remote Sensing

Auracle Remote Sensing has developed a technology that can map from the Earth’s surface down to bedrock—a couple hundred metres under ground and water. Not only can it create an underground map from the geospatial information, but it measures minute changes to the geology. The data are used to create a model of the geology of an area, which Auracle’s clients interpret.

Stephen Leahy joined Auracle’s team as executive chair when he saw the need the technology could fill in markets across the board. “The resource business is well behind all the other industries in the world,” said Leahy. “Not just in developing technology, but adapting to it and utilizing it.” Auracle’s technology gives resource businesses an advantage they needed.

How does the remote sensing technology work?

Auracle reapplies existing technology and enhances it with its own processes. “We use satellite data but process it very differently and utilize it differently to a point that allows us to see things that others cannot,” he said. “For example, in Northern Africa, we saw through the sand cover to the bedrock and discovered water. That was 103 metres of sand.”

Radar combined with optics is the basis of Auracle’s technology. “We use the data that goes between the particles,” Leahy said. “We can’t see through bedrock because it’s a solid mass.” In dirt, sand and vegetation, there are always miniscule openings. The angularity and the reflection off the bedrock through the soil lets Auracle measure the radar responses. “It’s what we do with the data that is different,” he said.

Auracle provides clients with a complete set of documents showing the geological model. Given the nature of the data Auracle provides, they only deal with companies that have their own geotechnical engineers who can interpret the data in-house. “We don’t make decisions for them,” Leahy said. Auracle supplies its own conclusions along with the data, but allows its clients to ultimately interpret the data themselves from their own computers.

What are the applications of Auracle’s underground mapping?

“One thing we realized is that if we build our base model, then go back a couple months later to redo the base model and overlay it, we can tell change—minute amounts of change under the soil,” Leahy said. These mapped changes create a new perspective for potential markets Auracle Remote Sensing could help, for example, monitoring infrastructure. Clients determine the frequency that Auracle sends updated data.

The underground mapping technology gives Auracle’s clients an overarching shot from space that includes very specific information. “It was like someone turning the lightbulb on. If you can see minute change over large areas down to the bedrock, then you can predict major geohazards,” Leahy said. Most geological and infrastructure-based problems occur between the surface and bedrock. “We can give them information, then they can decide if they are going to have a problem.”

While the underground mapping technology will not identify gold deposits, it has many uses in the resource industry and beyond. Any infrastructure that needs to be monitored for movement and change— roadways, cliffs, bridges, tunnels and pipelines—can be assessed using this technology. Pipelines need to be monitored extensively and specifically. Auracle’s technology is the difference between fixing leaks after a spill and preventing leaks.

Auracle has goals to move into augmented reality applications for its clients. The company also hopes to gain more ground in the oil and gas industries, especially because of the huge benefits from monitoring infrastructure like pipelines. “If oil companies can say they are taking steps to help prevent and identify problem areas in advance, then we can go out and fix problems before they happen,” said Leahy.

Disbelief among potential clients

Auracle’s remote sensing technology has garnered an initial reaction of disbelief from potential clients. “Once they see it, they are convinced,” Leahy said. Auracle has proven its technology through a series of tests.

Tetra Tech is one of the recently convinced companies. “We just signed an arrangement with Tetra Tech,” Leahy said. The strategic alliance includes Tetra Tech promoting the use of Auracle technology among its ranks and to its own customers—a major milestone for Auracle Remote Sensing.

For now, Auracle is focused on business development: showcasing the beneficial applications of its underground mapping technology across industries.

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