Equipment Used to Find and Map Underground Utilities

Map Underground Utilities

As our urban landscape is continually evolving and there are new construction, repairs and alternations made every day. It might not be obvious, but the underground urban space is also growing increasingly congested: It’s a web of vital services like the water, sewer, gas, electricity, telecommunications. As a matter of planning and safety, everything that is happening down there also needs to be monitored, located and assessed to get the above ground work done.

Utility services need to be mapped at various stages in the planning and construction of urban areas. The mapped utility information is required by a range of professionals, from infrastructure contractors, civil engineers, and surveyors, to site supervisors, safety officers, and workers.

Underground utility contractors now employ a range of very sophisticated equipment to map the utility networks.

Electromagnetic induction

This is a geophysical technique for mapping. Electromagnetic induction is used to locate utilities which are conductive. So it can be used to locate steel pipes or cables.

Ground-penetrating radar

Ground penetrating radar works by sending out an electromagnetic signal into the ground. It is good for locating services which aren’t conductive.

A physical radar array must be moved across the ground surface for this method to work.

Robotic pipe locators

These devices can physically enter the pipes and when set to record, capture the data on the location and depth of the services. Drone technologies are also now being used to capture data.

Electronic Marker System (EMS)

Electronic marker locators can be buried above facilities and utilities when constructed or during maintenance. The markers are protected underground, so they won’t be damaged or inadvertently moved, but are easily located using an electronic locator device.

The markers also carry a range of electronic information about what the specific facilities or infrastructure line is, including who the owner is. When these markers are used, they can reduce the cost and risks of future and ongoing utilities construction.

Mapping the services location output

Once the utility lines have been located, there are various formats which the data can be presented in. The output can be customized to the client’s requirements. Options can include topographic, satellite imagery, government digital elevation model (DEM), and LiDAR map backgrounds.

GIS can be enabled with any of the above technologies, and provide very accurate data. The data can be transferred directly to computer plans and easily visualized with 3D modeling.

Going forward the mapping and modeling of our underground urban spaces also integrate with other industry standard technologies like BIM (Building Information Management).

This will ensure the data is as complete and well documented as possible, as well as easy to incorporate in design and construction documentation.

There are underground utility contractors in Michigan who are specialized in utility services mapping and make use of the latest technologies.

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