Installing early-warning landslide systems in Myanmar

Professor Neil Dixon and Dr Alister Smith, from the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, have installed technology in Myanmar that could revolutionise landslide monitoring and protect vulnerable communities. The initiative was highly commended in the University’s 2017 Enterprise Awards.

Professor Neil Dixon and Dr Alister Smith

The Community Slope SAFE (CSS) system was developed by Professor Dixon, Dr Smith and Dr James Flint (School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering). It works by listening to slope displacements, detecting the onset of a landslide and wirelessly communicating with a base station in the community, alerting them to the danger. The equipment was installed with the help of project funders FHI 360 and local partner Chin Committee for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation (CCERR), whose youth volunteers are being trained to use the system.

Landslides have resulted in more than 30,000 fatalities over the last decade – predominately in South East Asia and Central and South America. It is hoped CSS can help save lives by providing valuable time to evacuate.

The technology has undergone field trials with collaborators Universiti Sains Malaysia, JKR, Slopewatch and FHI 360. Further trial opportunities are being pursued in Nepal and Brazil, and project partner Datalink Electronics is developing the design to support high-volume, low-cost production.

Many landslides are caused by heavy rainfall events and this causes thousands of people to be killed and huge damage to infrastructure. Technologies exist that allow these landslides to be monitored and this could save many lives but these are too expensive, so they’re not used. Community Slope SAFE is a low-cost alternative and it listens to the slope continuously – if a predetermined threshold is exceeded, it sends a warning so action can be taken.

Professor Neil Dixon