Using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to Locate Underground Utilities

Modesto, CA-based ExceeD GPR & Locating is a ground penetrating radar company with a focus on carefully locating utilities located underground. The company has established a successful niche by utilizing advanced equipment to help clients save time while mitigating the risk of injury and expensive damage.

ExceeD employs radio detection equipment in combination with the UtilityScan® Pro ground penetrating radar (GPR) system to meet its client’s needs, a client base that includes Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), real estate agents, major national and regional developers and private homeowners.

ExceeD has developed a thriving business helping clients find underground utilities on a property.

ExceeD has developed a thriving business helping clients find underground utilities on a property. Image Credit: Geophysical Survey Systems Inc. 

Focusing on Safely Locating Underground Utilities

Miquel Aguilar, CEO and senior radar technician of ExceeD GPR & Locating, has been involved with hundreds of underground utility locating and concrete scanning projects. The company is responsible for locating a wide range of utilities, including telecommunication, electricity distribution, fiber optics, cable television, natural gas, traffic lights, streetlights, water mains, storm drains and wastewater pipes.

ExceeD has developed a business that thrives by helping clients locate underground assets on a property: “Calling 811 is just a part of the process,” says Aguilar. “We find everything in the area, including on private property where an 811 call is limited, and the responsibility falls on a property owner.”

Aguilar recognizes that he came into the utility locating industry by a somewhat serpentine route.

I was in search of a truck to customize into a mobile clothing gallery for our clothing brand and I found the perfect one collecting dust in the yard of a concrete cutting company owned by a longtime friend. During the process of customizing the truck I was asked if I could help the company with their GPR division.”

Miquel Aguilar, CEO and Senior Radar Technician, ExceeD GPR & Locating

After deciding to part ways with his original company, Aguilar began to get calls from prior clients about providing GPR services.

He adds, “I never really planned on it, but once I came into it, I found it very interesting. I enjoyed the training and was determined to master the GPR technology to become one of the best in the industry.”

So, he made the decision to start his own location service company. “It was exciting to see something that we started from scratch grow and grow. My plan now is to build up the brand slowly, by bringing on others with the same kind of work ethic and who are truly dedicated to being masters of the trade.”

Aguilar goes the extra mile for his company’s customers. This is achieved by spending hours researching and visiting each site to acquire as much information as possible to ensure that the job is performed as accurately and thoroughly as possible.

The Toolbox Approach: Radio Detection Combined with GPR Equipment

Aguilar utilizes radio detection equipment paired with the GSSI UtilityScan Pro GPR system for rapid identification and marking of utility location and depth. The system incorporates the GSSI SIR 4000 control unit and the 350 MHz digital HyperStacking antenna.

The patented HyperStacking technology boosts depth penetration by up to 40 feet in optimal soil conditions while also offering enhanced near-surface data resolution. Typically, depth penetration ranges between 8-12 feet in the California terrain, where Aguilar primarily works.

GSSI can provide a variety of utility locating systems, including both two-dimensional and three-dimensional imaging systems. Each system can be used with a wide range of accessories, including GPS and LineTrac, an add-on that facilitates locating the presence of AC power and induced RF energy in various conduits and utilities.

Aguilar’s specialty is conducting real-time two-dimensional utility location. He recognizes the importance of some of the features included in the state-of-the-art equipment, particularly the data collection speed, real-time scanning and results, and the ability to make rapid adjustments and changes to accommodate a variety of environmental conditions, like wet soil, average soil, rocky conditions and even concrete pavement.

“With UtilityScan Pro, I can make decisions very quickly to improve the clarity and brightness of what I am seeing, especially for jobs I do at night.” He recalls a recent example where a long-term client required an emergency survey in a rural area at night-time with limited lighting sources.

Noting that this field of work may fall outside the limits of typical office hours, Aguilar also recalls a cell-phone tower client where he has access to the area any time of the day, a stark contrast to job sites where he must meet a foreman or superintendent at a specific time.

With the radio detection and GPR equipment, I am able to do quite a bit at most sites. It is extremely accurate. There have even been cases where clients are surprised and a bit concerned when I did not find an expected sewer line – then a week or so later they get back to me to let me know that even though the line was on the as-built plans, the utility never actually installed that line!

Miquel Aguilar, CEO and Senior Radar Technician, ExceeD GPR & Locating

Amusingly, Aguilar recognizes that there are clients who continue to start their locating projects by relying on dowsing rods or witching sticks to try to find utilities. “Water lines emit some kind of energy or charge that is picked up by these historic tools and some clients continue to use them. I remind foremen for companies contracting with PG&E that they definitely cannot put that on their report – instead we use equipment like the UtilityScan Pro to provide quantitative information!”

Concrete scanning and utility locating using GPR and RD at Gallo Winery facilities.

Concrete scanning and utility locating using GPR and RD at Gallo Winery facilities. Image Credit: Geophysical Survey Systems Inc.

Multiple underground utilities located at various depths prior to renovation work outside Gallo Winery facilities.

Multiple underground utilities located at various depths prior to renovation work outside Gallo Winery facilities. Image Credit: Geophysical Survey Systems Inc.

Proud to be a Part of California’s Future

ExceeD GPR & Locating has conducted work on projects all over the state, from as far north as Eureka, across to Needles, in the Mojave desert near the Arizona border.

ExceeD’s vast client base includes Mears, Snelson, Webcor, Devcon, Dellabarca, Gallo, Foster Farms, Overaa, Ford Construction, Nor-Cal Steel Structures, and PG&E. The company has performed utility locating in snow-capped mountains at altitudes up to 7,000 feet to dry, hot desert terrain where temperatures top 115 degrees.

The scope of utility locating projects varies, from partial day surveys to continuous, weeklong projects. Recently, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) called upon ExceeD to locate underground utilities in a service hangar due to be retrofitted.

Long-term client PG&E has employed ExceeD’s services several times to locate underground utilities close to natural gas line properties to make sure buried assets and utilities are appropriately identified before moving on to the next phase of work.

The PG&E work is done under subcontract to the Mears Group, its sister company, Underground Construction Company. Aguilars’ company found so much success in utility locating that ExceeD now offers GPR concrete scanning services.

The company has conducted concrete scanning at a vast array of sites, from water treatment plants, wineries, dams, and high-rise hotels, to homes with post-tension slabs.

One intriguing project was at the Modesto Silos, a redevelopment scheme by Modesto Silos and Royal Equity Investments, LLC, where ExceeD had to carry out utility and concrete scanning services before renovations could get started.

Aguilar considers the Modesto Silos to be one of the most unique structures he has ever worked in.

We are very grateful and feel honored to be a part of this amazing project in our very own hometown of Modesto, California.

Miquel Aguilar, CEO and Senior Radar Technician, ExceeD GPR & Locating

Concrete scanning and utility locating at The Modesto Silos, in Modesto CA.

Concrete scanning and utility locating at The Modesto Silos, in Modesto CA. Image Credit: Geophysical Survey Systems Inc.

Keeping California Safe

The 2018 Common Ground Alliance Dirt Report declares that there were near 10,000 utility damages in the state of California.1 Aguilar takes immense pride in the work his company does for the private and public institutions that are focused on keeping the state safe.

“With all that we have gone through as a state, I think every project is very important. Everyone wants to be able to turn on their stove or take a warm shower. The services we provide make sure everyone can safely maintain access to all the essential utility services.”

References

  1. Common Ground Alliance, CGA Dirt Dashboard, https://commongroundalliance.com/dirtdashboard, retrieved 9/17/20.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Geophysical Survey Systems Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit Geophysical Survey Systems Inc.

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