Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Research & Innovation

Vulnerability Assessments of Critical Slope Areas using Advanced Monitoring Techniques

Need Statement 709


MnDOT recently conducted a multi-phase study on developing a GIS-based model to determine the risk of slope failure along state highways. Model results were ranked into four proposed risk-management categories: action recommended, further evaluation, monitoring, and no action recommended. Preliminary risk results indicated that 499 management areas and 1.4% of the total area were categorized as action recommended. New technologies proposed in the next phase of this study, including uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) and 3D slope stability analysis, provide a better understanding of the stability of the critical slope areas (CSAs) through the latest/real-time surface elevation data and help in evaluating the critical nature of those CSAs. This will help MnDOT in making informed decisions, prioritizing the rehabilitation activities, and allocating limited resources. By doing so it will also help in avoiding harmful consequences of catastrophic slope failures, especially after extreme weather events in Minnesota, on lives, property, and environment, also minimizing traffic delays.


This study will improve and expand the model developed in Phases 1-4 noted above by considering new technologies like UAVs to provide high spatial and temporal resolution data of the CSAs and conduct detailed slope vulnerability assessments using 3D slope stability analysis.

Previous research

MnDOT recently conducted a multi-phase study on developing a model to determine the risk of slope failure along state highways. Proposed new technologies in this next study will build on and improve that model.

Strategic priorities

  • ¬†Innovation & Future Needs: This is an opportunity to apply an innovative technology to an existing model, also addressing future extreme environmental stressors/events and slope conditions.
  • Asset Management: This work would bolster the latest model with higher resolution data and more detailed slope stability analysis. Outcomes from this research can help in the development of performance monitoring curves for slopes for the Geotechnical Asset Management program.
  • Safety: Improved monitoring can improve the agency’s ability to address and time to react in a slope failure event. The specific technology also makes data collection safer for employees.
  • Climate Change & Environment: Increased frequency and severity of storms and flooding increase slope vulnerability. The real-time nature of these technologies can help inform the agency during events to proactively address potential safety and performance concerns.

Expected outcomes

  • New or improved business practices, procedure, or process
  • New or improved tool or equipment
  • New or improved decision support tool, simulation, or model/algorithm (software)

Expected benefits

Reduce Risk: This work and technology are expected to expand on and improve the reliability of the data from the model, resulting in less risk to crews, road users, property owners, and the agency.

Technical advisory panel

  • tbd