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Many people are frightened of artificial intelligence. Not Leigh Carnall.

He knows that used properly, AI can revolutionise the way we work – and for the better. 

The Darwin-based civil engineer is a director of Civiltech Solutions, which is the first company to introduce an American-designed data collection sensor to Australia. technology carries out surveys of “pavements” – an industry term covering everything from highways to airport runways – with a speed, accuracy, efficiency and cost-effectiveness impossible by traditional methods. 

“It’s a game changer,” Mr Carnall says. 

The system can be used to assess the condition of any pavement by customers ranging from road authorities and airport managers to mining companies. 

It can be clamped onto the roof of any vehicle, which can then drive along a runway – or throughout a network of roads – using a LIDAR, light detection and ranging laser, and digital imagery to collect a mass of data about deterioration, such as hidden holes and cracks. 

The data allows engineers to take remedial action to repair pavements before they deteriorate so badly that they have to be torn up and replaced at great expense. 

“It means that clients can get many more years out of pavements before having to spend a lot of money replacing them,” says Mr Carnall. 

“Engineers can predict how much longer the pavement will last and what work needs to be carried out. 

“Australia spends billions of dollars a year on maintaining our roads.” 

Roads in the Northern Territory are particularly susceptible to deterioration because of the extremes in temperature and the torrential rain. 

The old way of assessing the conditions of pavements is expensive and labour intensive. 

Engineers drive along the pavements looking for signs of deterioration; they then take measurements by hand and snap photographs. 

“It’s a huge effort,” says Mr Carnall. “And the human factor means that it can never be totally accurate – everybody has different ideas of the extent of deterioration. It’s a visual assessment, not an exact science. 

“The work can be dangerous. People are often taking measurements and photos while cars are zipping past at more than 100km/h.” 

The sensor, which weighs about 10 kilograms and is the size of a brief case, can be operated with the most basic IT skills. 

It can be hired from Civiltech, which will then process the data and produce a map showing the condition of the pavements in different colours. 

Mr Carnall’s grandmother, Muriel Nash, was brought up in Sister Kate’s Home for mixed-race children in Perth. 

“My grandparents were people I deeply admired. They loved raising family and working their farm down south at Margaret River. 

“My Nanna didn’t speak much about her time at Sister Kate’s, just that she was treated well and made lifelong connections with her homie sisters. 

“It has meant that for my Nanna and her now large family we have lost connection with her old family, country and culture.” 




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