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Terabee’s radio frequency positioning system acts like GPS but is optimized for use with drones.


Leading Edge Only highlights new technologies relevant to civil and structural engineering.

Leading Edge Only (LEO) helps innovation providers such as fast-growth start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises, universities, and other organizations promote their technologies to a global audience. To that end, LEO offers the following review of four products relevant to the civil and structural engineering industry.

Terabee’s positioning system

Iknaia’s tracking platform uses state-of-the-art sensor technology to track and monitor workers and assets in real time, even underground.

Drones need to know their position, which is usually achieved with GPS. But for GPS-denied environments, alternative solutions must be found. Terabee created a radio frequency (RF) positioning system that acts like GPS but is optimized for use with drones. It provides positioning information in three dimensions with an update rate of up to 120 Hz and with centimeter-level accuracy.

The system works by placing small “anchors” in the environment and placing a “tag” on the drone. By pressing a button on a master anchor, the anchors all talk to one another to work out their relative positions and to create an RF network. This process takes less than two minutes, and once complete, the position of the tag within the RF network can be tracked accurately and quickly. Each anchor has a range up to 120 meters, so a large area can be covered typically using about five anchors, but larger areas can be covered by using more anchors.

The system is highly portable and quick to set up in a wide range of civil engineering sites, and use cases are not limited only to drones. The same solution could be used to monitor workers in complex or hazardous environments or other assets that may need fast and accurate location information in real time. Terabee also provides relative positioning solutions using its TeraRanger Time of Flight distance and ranging sensors. Added to an absolute positioning system, this can provide a complete solution for autonomous drone flight or robot navigation.

For more information visit www.terabee.com.

Iknaia’s tracking platform

Identifying key assets in real time can be key to a successful construction project, as can protecting employees in an industry where accidents and injury are an ever-present danger. Iknaia’s tracking platform uses state-of-the-art sensor technology to track and monitor workers and assets in real time.

It has widespread application within the construction industry and will enable companies to increase their productivity and profitability by presenting real-time data on the location of valuable tools and equipment.

Iknaia’s bespoke hardware and self-service dashboard are easy to configure and view, with an additional API that can be used to fully integrate data into any third-party platform. A network of nodes can be set up to connect with existing infrastructures and devices, as well as being deployed on a completely isolated basis. It is also an ideal solution where rapid telephony deployment is required or where temporary business locations are used.

Monash University researchers invented a process for precisely controlling the shape, size, and distribution of air voids within concrete structures.

Iknaia’s technology has been tried and tested since launching in 2015, with the first trial at the London Power Tunnel with Costain. Traditionally, workers in tunnels and mines wear two brass Tallys on their belt clip. When entering into the tunnel, one tally is put on a board in the tally hut to ensure that the Tally Man knows who is in the tunnel at any time. However, this system doesn’t allow management to identify workers’ locations. Above ground tracking solutions don’t work underground, so no technology solution had previously been trialed.

Working with Costain, Iknaia installed a network of its detector nodes to track the location and identify whether skilled workers were in the right place at the right time. In real time, construction managers could see the movements and locations of their workers, monitoring which zones were being worked in and where their valuable assets were.

Iknaia provided live intelligence of the location of hazards, such as the location of gas bottles and the proximity of workers near plant machinery. The detector network was set up to work as a completely standalone network, using 3G to communicate the data to cloud servers.

For more information visit www.iknaia.co.uk.

Monash University’s high-strength concrete foam

Although foam concrete is highly appreciated in the construction industry for its light weight and good thermal properties, the low strength substantially limits its application as a load-bearing construction material. Monash researchers have invented a process for precisely controlling the shape, size, and distribution of air voids within concrete structures. The result is increased compressive strength while simultaneously reducing weight, giving a foam concrete that meets the need for strength combined with light weight.

Three-dimensional micro frames are used to control the size, shape, and distribution of pores. The frames are specially designed based on the desired material properties and can be fabricated by 3D printers. The frame is covered with a precisely controlled cement paste mixture. Surface tension of the cement paste aligns it into sheets in the direction of the micro-frame. This results in highly aligned thin-walled concrete section of almost any shape.

SuRe pile is a hollow-cast, in-situ concrete pile that promises significant reductions in concrete use for large-diameter bored piles in addition to other benefits relating to sustainability.

Structures have been produced with a compressive strength as great as 7.5 MPa while simultaneously having a dry density of 445 kilograms per cubic meter. Structures produced using this process have shown non-brittle failure, providing increased safety compared with existing lightweight concretes. During compression testing, the columns are stable and maintain approximately 80 percent of their capacity at more than 50 percent strain, which is not achievable using existing lightweight concretes.

For more information visit www.monash.edu.

City University London’s SuRe Pile

A major technical hurdle to the reuse of foundations for subsequent development can now be overcome with SuRe Pile, which enables existing piles to be properly assessed and modified if necessary to increase capacity. SuRe pile is a hollow-cast, in-situ concrete pile that promises significant reductions in concrete use for large-diameter bored piles in addition to other valuable benefits relating to sustainability. The SuRe Pile technology helps to achieve savings in concrete of about 50 percent when constructing large-diameter bored piles. It is better suited to allow deep foundations to be used as energy piles compared with existing technology.

Unlike a conventional solid pile, it is reusable, reduces cost and construction time, enables inspection (and therefore quicker and safer redevelopment), reduces the carbon footprint, and allows an additional range of uses. Reaching a maximum depth of approximately 60 meters, SuRe pile is rotary bored instead of driven into the ground.

This technology is licensed to Keltbray Piling Ltd. For more information visit www.city.ac.uk/business-services/research-and-consultancy/commercial-opportunities/licensing-opportunities/engineering.


Information is provided by Leading Edge Only (LEO; www.leadingedgeonly.com), a global innovation marketplace.

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