Posted on 21 November, 2018

What is Utility Locating? 


Earth Radar

Caption: Earth Radar

Whether you're performing a home renovation or managing a large civil project, utility locating is usually always required if you plan to perform an excavation. Despite the ubiquitous nature of excavation work, opening up the earth in this way can be much riskier than many people think.



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There are a number of critical utilities located underground, including gas lines, telephone lines, and water pipes to name just a few. Having the ability to accurately locate underground utility services is vital in excavation work, and there are a number of technologies used to help you detect and map underground services.



What is utility locating?

Utility locating, also known as underground utility mapping or utility detection, involves the use of high-tech equipment to create a detailed map of what's going on under the surface. Rather than risking damage to underground pipes and cables, a utility locator is able to verify existing infrastructure and manage safe excavation practices. 


There's a range of different tools on the market for businesses from Melbourne to Brisbane, each designed to perform this task, with most equipment based on electro-magnetic induction (EMI) technology and ground penetrating radar (GPR).

How does utility locating work?

While hydro excavation and other soft digging equipment can be used to excavate the ground safely, the ability to map utilities prior to opening the earth is very important. EMI technology is one of the most popular location services, with this technology generating, sending, and receiving an electromagnetic radio frequency through the ground. 


This technology is ideal for locating utilities that contain metal and other conductive materials, such as electric lines, telephone lines, and gas lines. EMI technology is not without its cons, however, and is unable to locate plastic pipes, or anything more than 5 metres underground.


GPR is another popular tool that can be used to supplement EMI equipment. This non-destructive testing method is extremely useful on most sites and allows the operator to detect non-conductive services as well as metallic ones.


The GPR emits high-frequency radio pulses into the ground and provides results based on how the pulses are reflected by different objects underground. GPR is also useful for finding buried chambers, voids, manhole extents and underground storage tanks.


Radar Mapping

What is utility locating used for, and why is it important?

Utility and asset detection and buried cable locator services are required prior to many excavation jobs to help reduce risk and ensure safety. Utility location typically concerns public utilities, and can also be used to locate underground services in homes and commercial establishments. Cable location services are often carried out alongside safe excavation services, including vacuum excavation and hydro excavation.


An underground locator helps to reduce potential damage that may result from hitting and breaking underground pipes and other services. Pipe locator technology is also an important part of health and safety, with accurate underground mapping needed to reduce exposure to dangerous electric wires and waste-water pipes.


What are the most common projects?

Underground utility mapping technology is used for a range of residential, commercial, and civil applications in Sydney, Melbourne, and across Australia. While this technology can be cost-prohibitive for small residential jobs, it is widely used by private building companies and government organisations who are involved with infrastructure projects. 


From new apartment building complexes through to highways and parkland, having the ability to identify, locate, and protect underground services is a crucial part of many excavation projects.


Looking for reliable utility locating contractors?

VAC Group is a proudly Australian-based company involved with a range of utility locating services. Established in Queensland almost 20 years ago, VAC Group had a dream to become Australia's leading utility mapping and non-destructive excavation experts. 


Along with their extensive excavator and utility locator hiring options, VAC Group also has access to resources that include 85 vacuum excavation units, 5 electronic detection crews, and the only independently-operated 3D radar system in Australia. If you're looking for the trusted and experienced utility mapping experts, VAC Group are ready to give your project the scope and safety it deserves.


Contact VAC Group today to arrange a personalised obligation-free quote.

Note: Certification to ISO 9001, 14001 and AS/NZS 14001 is limited to South East Queensland Operations.

PO Box 528, Ormeau QLD 4208

VAC Group is Australia’s leaders in non-destructive digging, vacuum excavation, utility locating and underground services protection.

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