Long-term Dam Surface Monitoring Using the Global Positioning System

Mike Stewart and Maria Tsakiri
School of Spatial Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia


Dam monitoring relies on the long-term measurement of small structural motions at regular intervals. Traditional surveying techniques and geotechnical instrumentation can effectively monitor one- or two- dimensional modes of motion. However, spatial distribution of geotechnical instrumentation is usually limited to the locations that the instruments can be installed during dam construction, whilst surface monitoring by traditional surveying techniques is a relatively slow process which restricts the number of points that can be regularly monitored. As a supplement to existing geotechnical instrumentation, the Global Positioning System (GPS) offers a reliable and efficient method for three-dimensional monitoring. To date, GPS technology has been successfully applied to a variety of deformation monitoring applications. This is due to its ease of use, and capability of very high accuracy when the appropriate hardware, software and field procedures are implemented. This paper reviews current GPS technology in the context of its application to dam deformation monitoring. The advantages and disadvantages of using GPS for this type of activity are discussed. Three case studies are presented to highlight the current status of GPS as applied to dam monitoring, some of the hardware configurations available and the possible future of GPS from the point of view of geotechnical engineers wishing to utilise this new technology.

KEYWORDS: GPS, monitoring, dams, geotechnical instrumentation


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