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RockModels project

The risk due to rockfalls is difficult to manage. The fundamental issue associated with rock falls and, in particular rocky cliffs, is the fragile nature of the break. After a prelude of slow or very slow deformations, the rock mass experiences an acceleration of the same ones that lead to a sudden (catastrophic) break. This behaviour has been determinant in the way of analysing the process and in the way to approach the prevention and the design of the measures of protection. For practical purposes, rockfalls were always considered sudden breakages, without premonitory movements. The limitations of traditional topographic control equipment (total stations, GNSS systems, etc.) contributed to this perception. On the other hand, the resistance of the rocky massif is controlled by the fracturing pattern, that is, by the arrangement, spacing and persistence of the discontinuities. Although many breaks are controlled by discontinuities, the presence of rock bridges is a key aspect in the strength of the massif.

Despite the dedicated efforts, the definition of the rocky slopes fracture's patterns in the non-visible zones has been an unacceptable challenge. However, the situation has changed completely given the available geomatics techniques for massive capture of high-resolution data, such as digital photogrammetry and LiDAR and the development of powerful calculation programs, which allow approaching the problem of the prediction of the breakage through other perspective. This project will provide more effective tools and algorithms to predict and prevent rockfalls; photogrammetry techniques and processing of 3D point clouds for spatially distributed roughness and three-dimensional object analysis, as well as videometry techniques for tracking block in controlled tests.



This project aims to address the following objectives:

  • Objective 1: Explicit identification of unstable rock volumes and stability assessment
  • Objective 2: Validation of the fragmentation model
  • Objective 3: Analysis of the propagation and set-up of the RockGIS model

 Additionally, in relation to the objectives 2 and 3, the following aspects will also be addressed:

  • A program will be implemented for the capture of kinematic parameters of the falling of blocks and their fragmentation in the trials of launching of blocks registered by high-speed video cameras. The obtained kinematic parameters will be used as a database for the Fragmentation Fractal Model and the RockGIS model.
  • A semi-automatic procedure will be proposed to obtain the spatial distribution of the roughness and the calculation of fragments volumes. This last aspect seeks to find an alternative to the manual procedures to obtain the RBSD and that require a long, monotonous and often dangerous work.



This website collects all information relative to the research project "Characterization and modeling of rockfalls" (with acronim RockModels) which is being carried out at the Division of Geotechnical Engineering and Geosciences of the Department Civil and Environmental Engineering  (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech, UPC).

The RockModels research  project is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness,and co-funded by the Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) and The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF or FEDER in Spanish) on the framework of the State Plan of Scientifico-Technical Research and Innovation with reference code BIA2016-75668-P (AEI/FEDER,UE).