Low-cost landslide early warning system

Saving lives and protecting infrastructure worldwide

Annually, slope failures kill tens of thousands and damage infrastructure costing billions of pounds.

Warnings are seldom provided due to prohibitive costs of traditional monitoring solutions. Over two decades of research – leading to numerous world-first outputs – we have developed a novel lower cost early warning approach that "listens" for landslides.

Our impact

  • Improved public safety and infrastructure protection via affordable and increased landslide knowledge in UK, Italy and Canada.
  • Enhanced community resilience to landslides in Myanmar and Malaysia.
  • The world’s first commercial acoustic emission slope monitoring system developed with a global leading geotechnical instrumentation company.

Acoustic emission monitoring of infrastructure

The infrastructure that supports our modern way of life is vulnerable to movements in the ground beneath our feet. We’ve developed a novel approach for monitoring the performance and safety of infrastructure by listening to soil as it deforms.

Neil Dixon and Alister Smith
Professor Dixon and Dr Smith with their technology

The research

Our research has proven that acoustic emission (AE) monitoring (ie. listening to high frequency noise) of slopes as they deform can warn asset owners and communities of impending slope instability - enabling people in harm's way to be evacuated and allowing owners of critical infrastructure to mitigate potential damage.

We have established that this novel approach can detect landslides earlier than inclinometers, the standard approach.

Two AE sensor systems have been developed and assessed through research:

  • Slope ALARMS (SA) for monitoring slopes threatening infrastructure (ie. road, rail, dams etc) with functionality of remote access and automatic generation of warnings to decision makers using mobile phone technology
  • Community Slope SAFE (CSS) operated and maintained by community representatives, designed for low manufacturing cost, and which delivers a warning of landsliding directly to the affected community via an audible and visual alarm

Community Slope SAFE has the potential to save lives - not only in Myanmar but throughout the developing world.

Matthew Pietz Chief of Party, Myanmar - FHI 360Global

Meet the experts

Photograph of Neil Dixon

Professor Neil Dixon

Emeritus Professor of Geotechnical Engineering