An Exploration of Rockfall Modelling through Game Engines

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Ondercin, Matthew
Geotechnical Modelling , Rockfall , Game Engine , Visualization
The Railway Ground Hazards Research Project (RGHRP) was developed to study and mitigate geotechnical hazards affecting the Canadian railways. A specific target area for this project is the White Canyon area in southwestern British Columbia, where common rockfall events directly impact the railway corridor and pose a risk to railway operations and safety. Through this project, sequential high resolution LiDAR and photogrammetry datasets were collected in order to develop an understanding of these slope-related hazards. A common method for slope hazard analysis is the use of rockfall simulation software to assess the hazard potential of a site. The rockfall data collected from the comparison of the scans was modelled using available rockfall simulation software packages, in an attempt to validate the assumed rockfall modelling parameters. Tests with available software packages identified three major limitations. The first concerns the use of coefficient of restitution values to generalize the energetics of rock-slope interaction in rockfall modelling and the inconsistencies associated with this. Second, there are significant limitations in visualization both during model setup and of the results of the models generated, as well as with the integration of these results with other applications. Finally, these tools are something of a closed environment (a ‘black box’) in that the details of how they produce their results is not modifiable, and in some cases the mode in which they operate is not transparent. In this thesis an attempt to address these issues using the Unity game engine is presented, the goal being to more fundamentally explore rockfall mechanics, and to utilize the high-resolution site data to as great a degree as possible. We demonstrate how these engines can be used to assist an engineer in their decision making process and new ways to handle simulation outputs so that these are easily analyzed and presented. In particular pairing the game engine with new data visualization methods. The results show the high potential of game engines for use in geotechnical applications and present an exciting opportunity for future work on geotechnical modelling.
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