GEOTECHNICAL APPLICATIONS OF LIDAR PERTAINING TO GEOMECHANICAL EVALUATION AND HAZARD IDENTIFICATION
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Natural hazards related to ground movement that directly affect the safety of motorists and highway infrastructure include, but are not limited to, rockfalls, rockslides, debris flows, and landslides. This thesis specifically deals with the evaluation of rockfall hazards through the evaluation of LiDAR data. Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) is an imaging technology that can be used to delineate and evaluate geomechanically-controlled hazards. LiDAR has been adopted to conduct hazard evaluations pertaining to rockfall, rock-avalanches, debris flows, and landslides. Characteristics of LiDAR surveying, such as rapid data acquisition rates, mobile data collection, and high data densities, pose problems to traditional CAD or GIS-based mapping methods. New analyses methods, including tools specifically oriented to geomechanical analyses, are needed. The research completed in this thesis supports development of new methods, including improved survey techniques, innovative software workflows, and processing algorithms to aid in the detection and evaluation of geomechanically controlled rockfall hazards. The scientific research conducted between the years of 2006-2010, as presented in this thesis, are divided into five chapters, each of which has been published by or is under review by an international journal. The five research foci are: i) geomechanical feature extraction and analysis using LiDAR data in active mining environments; ii) engineered monitoring of rockfall hazards along transportation corridors: using mobile terrestrial LiDAR; iii) optimization of LiDAR scanning and processing for automated structural evaluation of discontinuities in rockmasses; iv) location orientation bias when using static LiDAR data for geomechanical analysis; and v) evaluating roadside rockmasses for rockfall hazards from LiDAR data: optimizing data collection and processing protocols. ii The research conducted pertaining to this thesis has direct and significant implications with respect to numerous engineering projects that are affected by geomechanical stability issues. The ability to efficiently and accurately map discontinuities, detect changes, and standardize roadside geomechanical stability analyses from remote locations will fundamentally change the state-of-practice of geotechnical investigation workflows and repeatable monitoring. This, in turn, will lead to earlier detection and definition of potential zones of instability, will allow for progressive monitoring and risk analysis, and will indicate the need for pro-active slope improvement and stabilization.