Multiple InSAR data being processed and linked for SatShop

Revolutionising Infrastructure Monitoring Using InSAR Data



Revolutionising Infrastructure Monitoring Using InSAR Data

InSAR has existed for over three decades, but its commercial applications have increased significantly in the last few years, fuelled by demand from different sectors. Let’s look at how asset managers across different sectors are using InSAR data to monitor their assets and entire networks remotely, but first, let’s understand how InSAR works.

What is InSAR Data and how does it help monitor ground movement?

InSAR data, or Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar data, helps asset managers and engineers detect millimetre-scale shifts in the ground's surface, as well as subtle movements in buildings, bridges, and other structures. InSAR is a remote sensing technique that uses SAR images from radar-borne satellites to measure ground movement at a millimetre-per-year level precision.

This high-precision monitoring capability allows for early detection of potential problems and timely preventative measures. Infrastructure companies and engineering firms, amongst others, use InSAR data to monitor different assets such as commercial, and residential properties, large mining sites, entire road, and rail networks and even water utility networks.

How is InSAR data captured?

InSAR data uses SAR (synthetic aperture radar) images to monitor ground and structural movement. The radar images are created when satellites emit an electromagnetic beam that is subsequently backscattered from the Earth’s surface and received by the sensor on the satellite. InSAR compares the returned radar signal at two different times and by looking for subtle shifts in the final wavelength (aka phase) it is possible to determine the amount of ground movement that has occurred. By combining multiple radar images, we can produce a time history of movements with up to millimetre per year precision.

Sectors using InSAR data for movement monitoring

• Monitoring Road and Rail Infrastructure: InSAR transcends traditional monitoring limitations by enabling comprehensive assessments of road and rail infrastructure. Asset managers use InSAR data to identify structural instabilities in assets like bridges, monitor ground movement near remote road and rail sections/assets, and optimise maintenance activities. In densely vegetative areas where getting good InSAR data coverage is a challenge, corner reflectors help provide consistent signals.

• Settling Property Insurance Claims: InSAR empowers property and insurance professionals to assess potential nearby ground movement related risks like landslides and subsidence, better informing development decisions and mitigating environmental liabilities. InSAR data reduces the claim settlement time for property insurance companies by providing them with historic ground movement data within a few clicks, thus reducing dependence on conventional monitoring methods and saving both time and money for the customer and insurance company.

• Assessing Active and Historical Mining Sites: Open pit mines and tailings dams are constantly evolving landscapes, posing numerous potential slope instability and ground deformation risks. InSAR provides near real-time monitoring of these dynamic environments, pinpointing millimetre-scale displacements and potential subsidence. By comparing current data to historical time series, mine operators can proactively implement safety measures, optimise extraction activities, and mitigate environmental hazards. SatSense's InSAR alerting service further empowers proactive risk management by triggering instant notifications for critical displacement thresholds.

• Monitoring Entire Water Utilities Networks: Leaking pipes, pipe deformations, and unstable ground can wreak havoc on water networks. InSAR's satellite-powered insights shines a light on these hidden threats, revealing millimetre-level fluctuations in the ground and infrastructure/structural movement across vast areas. By analysing time series data and identifying deformation patterns, asset managers can pinpoint problematic sections, prioritise repairs, and optimise maintenance schedules, ensuring uninterrupted water flow for all. It would be no surprise that pipe bursts strongly correlates with ground movement. SatSense has built machine learning models to use large data sets across a wide water utility network and look for patterns, helping pinpoint sections of pipe most at risk to bursting. This provides water utility companies with actionable data to proactively repair pipes most at risk of leaking/bursting due to ground movement.

• Enhanced Site Intelligence for Geotechnical Investigations: Before the first shovel breaks ground, InSAR paints a comprehensive picture of potential geotechnical hazards like sinkholes and unstable slopes. Historical data and detailed time series analyses reveal past ground movement patterns, helping engineers refine project plans, optimise drilling locations, and avoid costly surprises. This data-driven approach ensures safer project execution, minimises environmental impact and leads to more efficient and cost-effective construction. Our InSAR data has been successfully used in desk studies, in geotechnical risk assessments and in ground movement related litigation.

• Providing Actionable Insights to the Oil and Gas Sector: Oil and gas companies often operate in complex subsurface environments where pipeline integrity and reservoir stability are crucial. InSAR provides actionable insights, monitoring millimetre-scale subsidence from extraction and injection activities, detecting potential leaks in pipelines, and assessing the structural integrity of critical infrastructure. By analysing historical data and current time series, companies can proactively address potential hazards, optimise resource extraction, and ensure responsible environmental practices.

About SatSense’s InSAR solutions

SatSense is a leading provider of InSAR data and solutions. We’re changing how you access and interpret satellite ground movement data. Our mission is to make this once-expensive dataset affordable, accessible, and easy to interpret. We do this by providing high-quality InSAR data through our data visualisation portal; SatShop.If you would like to know more about SatSense’s InSAR solutions, please email us at or contact us here.