What can be found with Ground Penetrating Radar?

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Evan Mowbray

What can be found with Ground Penetrating Radar?

Ground penetrating radar, GPR, is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to utility locating and other subsurface applications. It enables our team at Trinity to measure the exact horizontal location of utilities in asphalt, soil, concrete and pavement, giving our clients a better understanding of what’s underneath their structures. GPR allows us to find water and gas pipes, telephone and electrical cables, and sanitary and storm sewers. Some pipes are more difficult to locate without tracing cable, and may require a duct rod to be run through them.

Trinity’s locating process usually involves gathering data such as surface features and existing plans and knowledge first, and then running the GPR scanner over the area. The scanner sends out electromagnetic pulses through the earth that reflect off of these utility lines, putting together an image of the utility lines underneath. However, utilities aren’t the only thing locatable with ground penetrating radar. Another use for GPR is for locating unexploded ordnances. Unexploded ordnances (also known as UXO) are military shells, ammunition, or weaponry buried underground that could be potentially dangerous. Similar to utilities, these unexploded ordnances reflect a signal back into the GPR scanner, preventing harm and injury to those looking to dig. 

An image of a utility locating service technician using ground penetrating radar to locate utilities under the ground at a sports complex.

Ground penetrating radar is also useful for locating voids and potential sinkholes. Voids are open spaces underneath the surface, which can be caused by various settlement factors underground. Sinkholes are a larger problem than the average void. In a previous blog post, we discussed how our team at Trinity has used GPR to uncover potential sinkhole locations after sinkholes swallowed vehicles in a parking lot and a construction site. Sinkholes are formed when water seeps into various underground cavities and voids, creating an internal erosion situation that can swallow the surface. Under the right conditions, a void can become a sinkhole. Ground penetrating radar will reflect these air pockets back into a visual that can be used for further analysis and preventing potential damages. Outside of voids and sinkholes, it can also be used to find pockets of precious minerals and gems during mining explorations.

This technology can also be used to find something a bit wilder than utilities or voids. GPR can be used to locate graves. I know what you’re thinking: Evan, you can’t possibly be talking about burial sites. The answer to that thought is, yes, we’re talking about burial sites. Ground penetrating radar can be used to locate where bodies could potentially be buried. Oftentimes this is used around churches and cemeteries to help determine accuracy of records and also find those burials that are snuck into the grounds for some closure. It’s also been used on archaeological sites for further examination into the history of our world. It may seem a bit odd, but ground penetrating radar can be all sorts of subsurface discoveries and our team at Trinity Subsurface has located graves before.

An image of a utility locating technician setting up a ground penetrating radar in front of a Trinity Subsurface van.

Ground penetrating radar has even been used on the Moon! The Apollo 17 mission featured a ground penetrating radar system known as the Apollo Lunar Sounder Experiment to study the Moon’s interior, examine its conductivity, create images of its surface, and examine radiation within the environment. Similar technology was later used in the Chinese lunar rover Yutu in 2013. Yutu’s GPR system allowed for a study of the soil 98 feet deep underground, and allowed for further investigation of the Moon’s crust. 

Ground penetrating radar is a powerful tool our team at Trinity Subsurface uses for locating your utilities and more for your construction projects, as long as it’s not on the moon (we’ll get there someday). Visit our website for more information regarding our services and call us today to schedule us for your next project! 

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