2022 – Remote sensing technologies for dam design and prototype monitoring

Stefan Felder – Senior Lecturer, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney, Manly Vale NSW 2093, Australia and Laura Montano – Project Engineer, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney, Manly Vale NSW 2093, Australia.

Dams play an important role for flood mitigation, water supply and hydropower. Climate change associated extreme rain events and subsequent flooding will increase the risk of dam releases, and the safety of the structure must be ensured even under the most extreme conditions. Many dams have insufficient flood release capacity and require refurbishment and upgrade of their spillway and energy dissipation structures. Modern design practice for such upgrades would ideally involve a combination of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and physical hydraulic modelling conducted using the highest technical standard. While physical hydraulic modelling of dams has traditionally relied on point measurement instrumentation, remote sensing technologies have recently shown to provide superior performance in terms of spatial and temporal resolution. LIDAR technology has been successfully explored in physical hydraulic modelling of aerated flows in spillways and stilling basins as well as in field measurements at a low-head weir. Recent pilot studies have also shown opportunities of video-based observations of flows discharging from a spillway at a large dam. Both LIDAR and video-based technologies are promising approaches for quantitative measurements of flows at prototype dams. Such prototype observations can provide missing validation data for both numerical and physical modelling, information on scale effects and fundamental insights into the flow behaviour at large scale. Prototype observations enable a more robust design process for dam upgrades and enhance the safety of dams. Real-time remote sensing of flows may provide additional benefits when integrated with decision support systems to identify any adverse operations during dam spilling events.

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