Founder and CEO

    Associate Professor
    Civil and Environmental Engineering Department
    University of Michigan

Robotics & Informatics for Geotechnical Systems

Brief Description

Recent advances in robotics and informatics pave new directions for our society and are destined to impact the entire breadth of geotechnical engineering practice and research, including the way we characterize, design, monitor and perceive risk of geotechnical systems. Robotic platforms provide an opportunity for spatially-distributed, mobile, data-driven sensing that allow for optimized monitoring on locations that are most critical to focus on and with the appropriate types of measurements. Land-based, floating, underwater, or aerial robotic platforms have not only unprecedented sensing capabilities, but also outstanding, untapped, computational capabilities that can promote data fusion and lead to better characterization of the interaction of geosystems with the environment. Robotic platforms are bringing quickly big data to geotechnical engineering. My research work has been focusing on the use of these unprecedented capabilities to promote resiliency and sustainability of geotechnical infrastructure systems.


Video Gallery

Use of Drones to Map Landslides following the Gorkha 2015 earthquake in Nepal

More than 20,000 landslides took place in Nepal during the Mw 7.8 Gorkha earthquake on April 25th 2015 . This video describes the landslide mapping efforts of researchers from the University of Michigan (Dr. Marin Clark, and Dr. Dimitrios Zekkos), University of Southern California (Dr. Josh West) in the US and Tribhuhan University (Dr. Deepak Chamlagain) in Nepal. The research team used drones and photogrammetry principles to view map and create 3D models of large rock slides, debris flows and even rockfalls. The drone was particularly needed in this case, because of the steep topography and the large size and runout length of some of the landslides, that made it nearly impossible to map otherwise. Video prepared by Geoengineer.org staff.




Drones and Natural Disasters

Outreach video explaining our research focus on the use of drones in post-earthquake reconnaissance. Developed by the University of Michigan College of Engineering (MCONNEX).







Unprocessed Drone-based Video Footage Following the 2015 Lefkada Earthquake

Raw Data video of reconnaissance following the Mw 6.4 earthquake that occurred near Lefkada island in Greece, on November 17th 2015. Our team deployed within less than 48 hrs following the earthquake and collected drone-based video footage of affected areas. The UAAV successfully by-passed roads that were closed by landslides and other damaged infrastructure that impacted accessibility. Footage was released immediately following UAAV deployment to make available data and footage that may prove valuable to first responders, engineers, rescue operators and damage assessors.







Journal Papers

  • Zekkos, D., Clark, M., Whitworth, M., Greenwood, W., West, J., Roback, K., Li, G., Chamlagain, D., Manousakis, J., Quackenbush, P., Medwedeff, W., Lynch, J., (2017). Observations of landslides caused by the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal based on land, UAV and satellite reconnaissance. Earthquake Spectra (accepted).

Conference Papers

  • Zekkos, D., Clark, M., Cowell, K., Medwedeff, W., Manousakis, J, Saroglou, H., Tsiambaos, G. (2017) Satellite and UAV-enabled mapping of landslides caused by the November 17th 2015 Mw 6.5 Lefkada earthquake, 19th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 17-22 September 2017, Seoul, South Korea.

  • Greenwood, W., Zekkos, D., Lynch, J., Clark, M. (2017). Data Fusion of Digital Imagery and Seismic Surface Waves for a Rock Road Cut in Hawaii. 3rd International Conference on Performance-based Design in Earthquake Geotechnical Engineering, July 16-19 2017, Vancouver.

  • Manousakis, J., Zekkos, D., Saroglou, F., and Clark, M.(2016). “Comparison of UAV-enabled photogrammetry-based 3D point clouds and interpolated DSMs of sloping terrain for rockfill hazard analysis.” Intern. Arch. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci., XLII-2/W2, 71-77, doi:10.5194/isprs-archives-XLII-2-W2-71-2016, 2016.

  • Greenwood, W., Zekkos, D., Lynch J., and Bateman, J., Clark, M., and Chamlagain, D., 2016.“UAV-Based 3-D Characterization of Rock Masses and Rock Slides in Nepal.” 50th US Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium, American Rock Mechanics Association, Houston, TX, 26-29 June 2016.

  • Zekkos, D., Manousakis, J., Greenwood, W., and Lynch, J. D. (2016). “Immediate UAV-enabled infrastructure reconnaissance following recent natural disasters: Case Histories from Greece”. 1st International Conference on Natural Hazards and Infrastructure, 28-30 June 2016, Chania, Greece.

  • Greenwood, W., Zhou, H., Lynch, J. P., and Zekkos, D. (2016). “UAV-Deployed Impulsive Source Localization with Sensor Network”, Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Smart and Multifunctional Materials, Structures and Systems (CIMTEC 2016), Perugia, Italy.

  • Zhou, H., Hirose, M., Greenwood, W., Xiao, Y., Lynch, J., Zekkos, D., Kamat, V. 2016 "Demonstration of UAV deployment and control of mobile wireless sensing networks for modal analysis of structures", Proc. SPIE 9803, Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2016, 98031X (April 20, 2016); doi:10.1117/12.2223441; http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.2223441.

  • Bateman, J., Zekkos, D., Olson, E., Messenger, S., Kershaw, C., Fei, X., and Lynch, J. (2016) Preliminary Observations from Robot-Enabled Surface Methane Concentration Monitoring at a MSW Landfill. Geo-Chicago 2016: pp. 740-749. doi: 10.1061/9780784480168.072

  • Hirose, M., Xiao, Y.,Zuo, Z., Kamat, V. R., Zekkos, D. and Lynch, J. (2015). “Implementation of UAV Localization Methods for a Mobile Post-Earthquake Monitoring System.” Environmental, Energy and Structural Monitoring Systems, July 9-10, 2015, Trento, Italy.

  • Zekkos, D. and Lynch, J., Sahadewa, A., Hiroshi, M. (2014). “Proof-of-Concept Shear Wave Velocity Measurements Using an Unmanned Autonomous Aerial Vehicle,” Geocongress 2014, Atlanta, Georgia, February 23-26 2014, 953-962.

 Magazine Articles

  • Zekkos, D., Greenwood, W., Manousakis, J., Lynch, J. (2016). The Rise of UAVs signals A New Era In Geotechnics, Geo-Strata Magazine, September-October issue, 72-77.



The Use of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Post-Disaster Geotechnical Reconnaissance

Webinar as part of the webinars established by the Geotechnical Engineering Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association, delivered with colleague Prof. Kevin Franke from Bringham Young University on April 20th 2016.







Students Involved






UROP, Fall 2014 – Winter 2015