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TWI Joins Project to Inspect Dam Structures

Wed, 12 August, 2020

TWI has joined the DamGPR-Drone Project to develop a ground penetrating radar (GPR) that is able to automatically inspect dam structures and create a map of the internal structure for fault detection and analysis.

The project, which is based in the Philippines, is being conducted alongside drone/UAV NDT inspection development company Autonomous Devices Ltd, and Filipino power sector procurement company Quantum Leap JMB Marketing (QLM).


The objective of the project is to develop a proof of concept for a GPR capable lightweight drone to fly near to and scan surfaces regardless of orientation. This will involve the optimisation of the GPR system and antenna to improve the scanning capabilities of the system. A mapping system will also be created to enable automatic flight and full scanning coverage. The system will, in turn, also be able to wirelessly transfer data from the drone to the operator to provide a map of the scanned structure for inspection.

This will support hydroelectric dams, a clean and renewable energy source, while also being affordable – reducing the cost of monitoring, inspection and upkeep of hydroelectric dams – safeguarding the low cost of hydroelectricity end-users.


The challenges of the project include various forms of interference and noise couplings that can corrupt the data. In addition, penetration depth or scan resolution may not be enough to detect certain features and wireless transmission bandwidth and/or range restricts the real time transmission of quality GPR data.

Another challenge to be addressed is that design and weight could not allow the drone to fly close to structures, while the power consumption needs to be increased, thus reducing the flight time.


The DamGPR-Drone will provide an inspection solution to secure dams from failure by regularly detecting defects or weaknesses in the dam structure. This will allow for preventative maintenance and lower the costs of inspection for operators. These cost reductions will make dams a more attractive option for future energy developments. By aligning with Philippine government incentives, the project should help reduce the use of fossil fuels in the region, improving air quality and benefitting the health of local people and the environment. The generation of clean energy would remove the need to use diesel fuelled lamps and charcoal/firewood stoves for cooking, light and heating. This would help prevent the number of premature deaths that occur as a result (15.7k in the Philippines), which mainly impact women and children. An additional benefit will be a reduction in time spent collecting fuel and tending fires, meaning there will be more time to spend on learning, earning and social activities.

Hydroelectricity in the Philippines

Hydroelectric dams are critical for energy generation in many South Asian countries. 62 hydro dams currently provide 10% of all of the energy requirements in the Philippines and these dams are classes as structures of national interest in the nation. 22 of the largest dams are managed by the National Power Corporation and these dams need to be monitored to ensure they have not suffered damage from earthquakes, which occur in the region.

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