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Drones to create digital models of tunnels under construction

  • The main advantage of using drones is the ability to obtain a regular digital record of the works to analyse any variations against the project’s specifications. This technology can be applied to tunnel projects constructed using conventional methods or to underground mining projects.
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In line with its commitment to innovation, ACCIONA is studying the feasibility of using drones during the tunnel construction phase to obtain digital models.This technology, which can be used on tunnel projects excavated by conventional methods (explosives, hammers or cutters) as well as on underground mining projects, can be supplemented with photographic resources to regularly monitor a project.

Tripod-based laser scanner systems are currently used, supplemented with conventional topography, to obtain digital models of the inside of tunnels under construction.However, these methods are time-consuming and not very versatile, which is not very compatible with the production performance of these works, reducing their effectiveness.

However, by using drones in tunnels, a regular digital record can be created of the works to analyse any variations against the project’s specifications, such as the volume of material excavated, the consumption of inputs, execution deadlines, incidents, etc.

The use of this technology does have limitations, such as the need not to interfere with construction of the tunnel (which means working alongside heavy machinery and during production windows); the hostile working environment (low lighting, environmental dust, the presence of gases, confined spaces, etc.); or the challenge of georeferencing without GNSS systems inside the tunnel in order to facilitate the post-processing work.

Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, the use of drones to create digital models of tunnels is an alternative solution to conventional systems and responds to the needs of the business.The versatility and efficiency of this technology has made drones an extremely useful tool that can be replicated across all ACCIONA’s tunnel projects.

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