Scientists are developing miniature robots that will be able to repair the UK’s extensive underground pipe network, which could save the logistics industry hundreds of millions of pounds by significantly cutting the disruption caused by the 1.5 million road excavations that take place every year.
Scientists from four British universities are benefitting from a £7 million government fund to develop the 1 cm-long robotic devices that use sensors and navigation systems to find and mend cracks in pipes.
The government estimates the cost of traffic closures and disruption to businesses through roadworks is £5 billion.
Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “While for now we can only dream of a world without roadworks disrupting our lives, these pipe-repairing robots herald the start of technology that could make that dream a reality in the future
“From deploying robots in our pipe network so cutting down traffic delays, to using robots in workplaces to keep people safer, this new technology could change the world we live in for the better. Experts in our top UK universities across the country are well-equipped to develop this innovative new technology.”
Malcolm Bingham, Head of Policy - North of England at the Freight Transport Association (FTA) commented: “FTA is delighted the government has realised the extent of the disruption caused to road users by unexpected roadworks and taken an innovative approach to combat this serious issue.
“Unexpected roadworks are one of the biggest challenges to the logistics industry; they prevent hauliers from operating at maximum efficiency, and ultimately, hinder the growth of the UK economy.
“While the UK logistics sector is judged as eighth in the world in terms of performance – a drop of one place from last year – on close analysis it becomes clear that most of the issues faced by the country’s operators are due to poor infrastructure and roadworks. These cause unnecessary delays and force companies to add additional journeys to catch up on jobs. And this extra mileage, emissions and fuel use only add to a fleet operator’s bottom line and, inevitably, to the price the customer pays for goods and services.
“The development of these robots is a perfect example of how government should be deploying advanced technology to solve the problems facing the logistics sector, where appropriate, keeping the cost of repairs to a minimum and ensuring that traffic keeps moving while work is undertaken. FTA hopes the robots are successful in their mission and set a precedent for ongoing government innovation and future investment.”
Posted on: January 3rd 2019