Case Studies

Ground Penetrating Radar Systems Inc.

The new way to X-ray - pinpointing risks before major problems arise

Every business is designed to solve a problem; Ground Penetrating Radar Systems Inc. (GPRS) just so happens to work with ones unseen. “When a company needs to break the surface, whether it’s cutting or drilling through a concrete slab or ground excavation, there are certain elements below the surface that cause great concern and can be extremely costly if broken,” explains Matt Aston, founder and president of the Ohio-based company.

GPRS detects these elements before they result in big-time problems utilizing the latest in technology from GSSI with multiple systems and antennas designed to handle any commercial or residential project. The company’s manufacturer-certified, highly trained professionals relay results to clients in multiple formats, including on surface field markings, CAD and GPS overlays.

GPRS is a nationwide company with technicians permanently based in 48 cities; nearly every major market in the U.S. and has recently been named one of the Inc. 5,000 fastest growing private firms. “We started out in Toledo, Ohio,” says Aston. “Now we’re operating across the country, from the Trump Tower in Chicago to Yankee Stadium, One World Trade Center and the Cleveland Clinic; we’ve worked on some major landmarks; 2002 was our first full year and our sales were $120,000, in 2013 our numbers were up to $15.1 million.”

The desire for change and a niche idea

While GPRS’ success has skyrocketed in recent years, the company started through a simple conversation between father and son. “In 2001, when I was just 24 years old, I was working an entry level finance job for a Fortune 300 company in Toledo,” shares Aston. “I started right out of college, but the thing about college is they expect people between 18 and 22 years old to know what they want to do for the rest of their life and I thought I wanted to work in finance for a big company and I could not have been more wrong.”

After about two years in finance, Aston soon realized the corporate environment wasn’t for him. “I went to my father, who owns his own concrete cutting company, for advice,” he recalls. “I originally wanted to go into business with him but he thought I should try something on my own.”

“He handed me a few magazines with new technologies he’d been reading up on,” continues Aston. “I looked into a few different avenues but ground penetrating radar seemed like a good fit, because I’ve always been strong in math and science. It just made sense and there was some overlap with the services needed to support my father’s concrete business.”

Hitting the ground running

At the ripe age of 24 with a child on the way and not a lot of money saved up, Aston took the leap into GPRS. “My wife thought I was crazy at first,” he shares. “We started out in Ohio and got our first big break within about three months at the Detroit Airport. This project helped springboard the company into the spotlight and helped legitimize our services.”

After GPRS’ first sizable project, Aston hired a friend to build a website for the startup company. “Before we knew it, we started getting calls from all over the U.S.; from Colorado to Florida, and the need for our services on a national level became apparent,” recalls Aston. “For the next several years we were traveling and seeing most of the country. We started setting up shop all over the U.S.”

Today, GPRS’ headquarters remain located in Toledo; however, the company serves the continental U.S. “In 2008, we had seven employees – we now have 90,” discloses Aston. “We have skilled managers from Boston to Los Angeles to handle all project needs on a local level.”

Aston goes on to note that the company’s best markets are within the southwestern U.S., where post-tension concrete is most frequently utilized. “In the Northeast there’s much more steel construction, but we really shine in post-tension jobs, because you cannot drill or cut through a post-tension cable,” says Aston. “We pinpoint the cables and paint a clear picture for contractors, as to where they can drill without drilling into a PT tendon.”

A better guideline

GPRS utilizes state-of-the-art ground penetrating radar surveying to deliver nondestructive ground testing in support of large-scale developers, contractors and architects. “We operate in two main areas: concrete services and underground services,” explains Aston. “In the concrete world, GPR is the best way to look into a slab to determine the exact placement of structural elements like rebar and post-tension cables. We use the radar to draw the grid of the reinforcing steel directly onto the surface of the concrete.”

According to Aston, determining the presence and path of embedded electrical conduits is also a common application prior to core drilling or cutting in a concrete slab. “As far as underground services, oftentimes there isn’t a good idea of what utilities cross trench lines,” he continues. “Using radar to scan the surface we can nearly pinpoint potential hazards so companies know where not to dig.”

GPRS has painted a clear picture for construction to move forward for numerous clients, from the University of Michigan to Disney resorts, the Trump Tower in Chicago to One World Trade Center in the middle of Manhattan. “We’re doing more and more work for pipeline companies and wind farms,” adds Aston. “We completed scanning for a project that spanned 294 miles in Texas for one of the largest wind power installations in the country.”

Now that GPRS has established itself in all corners of the U.S., Aston says the company’s focus is now on vertical growth. “We have done a good job educating our customer base on what our capabilities are,” Aston says proudly. “The demand has been created and now as it builds we are going to place additional staff in markets in response to the increase in demand.”

Thanks to one of the best teams in the niche business, Aston says GPRS continues to generate repeat clients. “I’m very blessed to work with these people; we have an incredible team and it wouldn’t matter if we were doing radar or something else, because they would be good at it no matter what,” he ensures. “Although we’re all across the country, we’re a unified team. What’s good for our guy in New York also benefits the person in Philly and on and on. We’ve been saying for a long time, ‘Our best sales call is a job well done,’ and we’ve lived by that motto for years.”

Since 2002, Ground Penetrating Radar Systems Inc. has uncovered the unseen, navigating a way to the top of the ground services industry.

Published on: July 9, 2014

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