Visual Techniques for Geological Fieldwork Using Mobile Devices
Not peer reviewed
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Visual techniques in general and 3D visualisation in particular have seen considerable adoption within the last 30 years in the geosciences and geology. Techniques such as volume visualisation, for analysing subsurface processes, and photo-coloured LiDAR point-based rendering, to digitally explore rock exposures at the earth’s surface, were applied within geology as one of the first adopting branches of science. A large amount of digital, geological surface- and volume data is nowadays available to desktop-based workflows for geological applications such as hydrocarbon reservoir exploration, groundwater modelling, CO2 sequestration and, in the future, geothermal energy planning. On the other hand, the analysis and data collection during fieldwork has yet to embrace this ”digital revolution”: sedimentary logs, geological maps and stratigraphic sketches are still captured in each geologist’s individual fieldbook, and physical rocks samples are still transported to the lab for subsequent analysis. Is this still necessary, or are there extended digital means of data collection and exploration in the field ? Are modern digital interpretation techniques accurate and intuitive enough to relevantly support fieldwork in geology and other geoscience disciplines ? This dissertation aims to address these questions and, by doing so, close the technological gap between geological fieldwork and office workflows in geology.
The emergence of mobile devices and their vast array of physical sensors, combined with touch-based user interfaces, high-resolution screens and digital cameras provide a possible digital platform that can be used by field geologists. Their ubiquitous availability increases the chances to adopt digital workflows in the field without additional, expensive equipment. The use of 3D data on mobile devices in the field is furthered by the availability of 3D digital outcrop models and the increasing ease of their acquisition. This dissertation assesses the prospects of adopting 3D visual techniques and mobile devices within field geology.
The research of this dissertation uses previously acquired and processed digital outcrop models in the form of textured surfaces from optical remote sensing and photogrammetry. The scientific papers in this thesis present visual techniques and algorithms to map outcrop photographs in the field directly onto the surface models. Automatic mapping allows the projection of photo interpretations of stratigraphy and sedimentary facies on the 3D textured surface while providing the domain expert with simple-touse, intuitive tools for the photo interpretation itself. The developed visual approach, combining insight from all across the computer sciences dealing with visual information, merits into the mobile device Geological Registration and Interpretation Toolset (GRIT) app, which is assessed on an outcrop analogue study of the Saltwick Formation exposed at Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK. Although being applicable to a diversity of study scenarios within petroleum geology and the geosciences, the particular target application of the visual techniques is to easily provide field-based outcrop interpretations for subsequent construction of training images for multiple point statistics reservoir modelling, as envisaged within the VOM2MPS project.
Despite the success and applicability of the visual approach, numerous drawbacks and probable future extensions are discussed in the thesis based on the conducted studies. Apart from elaborating on more obvious limitations originating from the use of mobile devices and their limited computing capabilities and sensor accuracies, a major contribution of this thesis is the careful analysis of conceptual drawbacks of established procedures in modelling, representing, constructing and disseminating the available surface geometry. A more mathematically-accurate geometric description of the underlying algebraic surfaces yields improvements and future applications unaddressed within the literature of geology and the computational geosciences to this date. Also, future extensions to the visual techniques proposed in this thesis allow for expanded analysis, 3D exploration and improved geological subsurface modelling in general.