A New Tool for Rock Mass Discontinuity Mapping from Digital Images: VTtrace

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Virginia Tech

Manual fracture mapping in tunnels, caverns, mines or other underground spaces is a time intensive and sometimes dangerous process. A system that can automate this task could minimize human exposure to rockfalls, rockbursts or instabilities and facilitate the use of new methods of data visualization such as virtual environments. This research was undertaken to develop VTtrace; a semi-automatic fracture mapping algorithm based on image processing and analysis techniques. Images of a rock exposure surface are made using a "prosumer" grade digital camera. The grayscale images are preprocessed to remove color information and any noise or distortion. The smoothed images are converted into binary images. The binary images are then thinned to extract the fracture map. The fractures are then separated and stored as different images. Fracture properties such as the length, width, orientation and large-scale roughness are determined using photogrammetric techniques. Results from test images shows the VTtrace is effective in extracting rock discontinuity traces. Additional enhancements to the program are proposed to allow feature attributes from the three-dimensional surface to be determined.

Digital Image Processing, Automated Fracture Mapping, Rock Mass Characterization, Digital Imaging