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Research project: Balancing the Impact of City Infrastructure Engineering on Natural Systems using Robots

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The consortium aims to develop novel robotics and autonomous systems technologies in a traditional sector such as infrastructure management and repair. The system will be able to sense, diagnose and repair different aspects of infrastructure (eg potholes or utility pipes). It brings together expertise in civil, mechanical, materials and electrical engineering. Working with Leeds City Council and the UKCRIC 'Living Lab' will provide a platform on which to test these technologies taking into consideration the social aspects to make sure they are introduced in a safe and responsible manner. The consortium brings together researchers from Birmingham, Southampton and UCL. Funding: EPSRC £4.2m Duration: Jan 2016 to Jan 2021

Towards our vision we will tackle the Grand Challenge of: Zero disruption from street works in UK Cities by 2050.

Our strongly interdisciplinary team aspires to fulfil our Grand Challenge through pioneering scientific research (and research methods) into: autonomous systems for minimally invasive infrastructure sensing, diagnosis and repair; development of advanced robots for deployment in complex live city environments; and the socio-technical intricacy of the robot - human - natural systems interfaces. We will develop pioneering robot designs, technical implementations and socio-economic impact cases linked to specific application requirements, starting with three case-study systems:

  • "Perch and Repair" remote maintenance and modernisation of lighting columns to promote their use as multifunctional platforms for city communication nodes;
  • "Perceive and Patch" Swarms of flying vehicles for autonomous inspection, diagnostics, repair and prevention of highway defects (e.g. potholes)
  • "Fire and forget" hybrid robots designed to operate indefinitely within live utility pipes performing inspection, repair, metering and reporting tasks.

To enable this new approach, the project will involve careful negotiations with the relevant regulatory bodies such as the CAA/EASA, as well as Sense and Avoid (SAA) strategies and all-weather capability.

Associated research themes


Unmanned Aircraft

Related research groups

Computational Engineering and Design
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