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Research project: Mapping the Underworld

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Mapping the Underworld (MTU) is an on-going 12-year multi-disciplinary and multi-university research programme largely funded by the EPSRC, bringing together experienced researchers with a range of different expertise.

The challenge of detecting multiple pipes and cables
Detecting multiple pipes and cables

The problems associated with inaccurate location of buried pipes and cables are serious and are rapidly worsening due to increasing traffic congestion in major urban areas.

Mapping the Underworld started in 2005 with four complimentary research projects covering the feasibility of a multi-sensor location tool; mapping and position; data integration to yield a single repository for records; and RFID tags to assist future pipe location. Starting at the end of 2008, the second phase of the project built on this research by seeking to develop a multi-sensor device using ground penetrating radar (GPR), vibroacoustics and electromagnetic technologies to locate all infrastructure in all ground conditions without the need for probing excavations. This phase is due to end at the end of 2013.

The MTU team, including Dr Muggleton, being interviewed by Adam Hart-Davis for Radio 4
The MTU team

In June 2013, a new project, Assessing the Underworld (ATU), began, aiming to develop the technologies to a point where they can be used for assessing the condition of buried infrastructure as well as locating and identifying it.

Mobile MTU laboratory
The mobile MTU laboratory

The vibroacoustics work in MTU and ATU is being undertaken in ISVR and led by Dr Muggleton and Dr Rustighi. Using both pipe excitation and ground excitation techniques both plastic and metal pipes can now be detected in a variety of different conditions.

Mapping the Underworld is the subject of a BBC radio 4 programme titled Mapping Britain’s Underworld (listen to it).

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