Amsterdam: Earth Observation data for bridge monitoring

The City of Amsterdam

On an area of 219.4 km2, the Amsterdam city is the most populated in The Netherlands, counting roughly 860 000 residents.The city has approximately 1600 bridges and 900 km of quay walls, shores, banks, talus, inclines and slopes, 600 km of which are managed or owned by the Municipality.

The challenge

Heavy traffic and frequent renovation works can threaten the stability and structural integrity of bridges, quay walls, and buildings.

The Department of Engineering of the City of Amsterdam is responsible for urban planning and infrastructure maintenance, including assessing the structural integrity of bridges and quay walls.

To ensure the integrity of these assets and plan maintenance works accordingly, the Department needs frequent and up-to-date data on deformation of structures and soil. This information is essential to assess traffic impact on bridges and prioritise maintenance works where they are needed.

The satellite solution

To assess the structural safety of bridges and the integrity of the buildings, the Department of Engineering of the City of Amsterdam decided to work with SkyGeo and use satellite-based data to measure and map deformation of the infrastructure and the buildings.

First, InSAR (Interferometric synthetic aperture radar) data were acquired to map movements in the city area. InSAR data provide accurate information on deformations of structures and roads with a millimetre precision. This information can be used, among other things, to predict the impact of groundwater level reduction on buildings.

Data collected through satellite observation were further validated through field measurements. The data validation process was also supported by the students of the Delft University of Technology and the University of Salerno.

The results

So far, InSAR data allowed the Department to assess deformations of 100 bridges and nearby buildings along the quay walls.

The City will use such information to prioritise maintenance works and prevent damages to the assets’ integrity during maintenance works, hence possibly saving a considerable amount of time and resources on field measurements.

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency estimates that the costs for repairing the damage and the frequent maintenance of the infrastructure in urban areas can amount to € 5.2 billion by 2050. Earth Observation can thus play a crucial role in the future to reduce the spending of public administrations on infrastructure monitoring and maintenance.

Currently, the Department of Engineering of the City of Amsterdam is exploring ways to extend the use inSAR satellite data to also study the past and current behaviour of buildings that are close to planned construction sites.

Satellite data allows the Department of Engineering to better foresee the sensitivity of buildings to soil movements and damages that could be caused by heavy works around the buildings and to preserve the city’s historical heritage. 

 Annemarij Kooistra, Department of Engineering, City of Amsterdam