Technology and innovation with the Road Engineering Association

1 September 2016

REAAA Roadshow

By: Dale Harris

Recently I was privileged to travel the country as a speaker with the 2016 REAAA roadshow. “REAAA” stands for “Road Engineering Association of Asia & Australasia (NZ)”, an organisation that brings together roading interests in New Zealand. Members are a mix of representatives from local government, consultants, contractors and the NZ Transport Agency.

This year’s roadshow involved a five-day tour top-to-south, starting in Auckland and ending in Dunedin. The roadshow had a future-looking focus titled “Our industrial legacy – what are we leaving our children” and include a range of speakers on topics including asset management, road construction, road safety, sustainability and cycleways.  

The topic on which I spoke was my involvement in a NZ Transport Agency research project undertaken during 2015 on the use of crowdsourced information in transport applications.  Part of the research included developing a trial in the Queenstown-Lakes District where we used the ArcGIS Online platform to crowdsource winter road reports and develop a real-time winter road condition mapping application. There was great interest among the attendees about what ‘crowdsourcing’ is, and how it could be used to address transport information gaps. I also talked about our current South Island trial.

Aside from presenting, I was also particularly interested in how local authorities and roading contractors are using spatial information and applying new technologies to be smarter in how they manage their road networks, particularly the remote rural road networks that cover much of the districts we visited.

Neil Bennett from Fulton Hogan talked about his experience with RoadRoid, an application for mobile devices that records the roughness of roads. Although designed for use on high-speed sealed roads, Neil’s experiments on low volume, unsealed roads demonstrated how different surface treatments behaved over time. The technology also captures imagery and video, and uploads information to a mapping/querying interface for further interrogation.

In Taupo, we heard about the historic imagery scanning project underway for LINZ, and how this is being used for road asset management. The most interesting slide from this presentation was a historic aerial photo capturing two people lying on a bridge in an X pattern and the name “Spike” clearly written on the pavement – an early example of photobombing!

In Dunedin, James McCallum a road engineer from Southland District Council, outlined how the Council are using low-cost UAVs (drones) to capture imagery and 3D data across the district. It was amazing to see how new generation road engineers are experimenting with new technologies and dabbling in GIS to more efficiently and safety survey remote and difficult-to-access sites.

All-in-all I had an enjoyable time touring the country and seeing a diverse range of innovative projects being undertaken by the road engineering community. For more information on the tour and to view the presentations, check out the REAAA website.