Central Alliance (part of the RSK group) will undertake an extensive satellite mapping project to track soil moisture.
The project, for the Welsh government’s Coal Tips Safety programme, will use GroundSat, a newly developed soil moisture mapping technique. High-resolution soil moisture data and analysis will be carried out over tips and surrounding areas across 10 local authorities in South Wales. The effectiveness of existing drainage systems will be assessed and any hidden moisture that could represent a risk of landslide should be identified.
GroundSat uses space-borne remote observation techniques. It has been developed by Central Alliance Applied Technologies in collaboration with satellite technology firm Asterra, a pioneer in the detection of water on earth using L-Band synthetic aperture radar. The technology is an adaptation of what is used to search for water on other planets. It allows users to remotely measure soil moisture levels below ground level, assessing sites and identifying geotechnical risks or drainage issues before they have an impact on critical infrastructure, construction projects and development sites.
Central Alliance joint managing director Richard Pidcock said: “As we have seen from recent extreme weather events from around the world, it is vitally important to monitor the impact of climate change, and the GroundSat satellite mapping project will form an important dataset for that assessment, confirming the Welsh government’s commitment to proactive assessment of climate change.”
Lori Frater, head of the Welsh government’s coal tip safety task force, added: “Alongside engineering works, technology has an important role to play in ensuring the safety of disused coal tips. It’s important that all possible means of monitoring of tips over the long-term are considered and funding different technology trials helps to ensure we have appropriate approaches in place.”
The project starts in September 2021, capturing data in relatively drier months, with a second phase to capture seasonal change in winter introduced early next year.