Skip to Main Content
Earthworks such as embankments and cuttings are integral to road and rail networks but can be prone to instability, necessitating rigorous and continual monitoring. To date, the potential of remote sensing for earthwork hazard assessment has been largely overlooked. However, techniques such as airborne laser scanning (ALS) are now ripe for addressing these challenges. This research presents the development of a novel hazard assessment strategy, combining high-resolution remote sensing with a numerical modeling approach. The research was implemented at a railway test site located in northern England, U.K.; ALS data and multispectral aerial imagery facilitated the determination of key slope stability variables, which were then used to parameterize a coupled hydrological-geotechnical model, in order to simulate slope behavior under current and future climates. A software toolset was developed to integrate the core elements of the methodology and determine resultant slope failure hazard which could then be mapped and queried within a geographical information system environment. Results indicate that the earthworks are largely stable, which is in broad agreement with the management company's slope hazard grading data, and in terms of morphological analysis, the remote methodology was able to correctly identify 99% of earthworks classed as embankments and 100% of cuttings. The developed approach provides an effective and practicable method for remotely quantifying slope failure hazard at fine spatial scales (0.5 m) and for prioritizing and reducing on-site inspection.