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Research project

Mapping the underworld: Buried asset location, identification and condition assessment using a multi-sensor approach

Project overview

Mapping the Underworld (MTU) was a 14-year multi-disciplinary and multi-university research programme, running from 2004-2018, largely funded by the EPSRC, bringing together experienced researchers with a range of different expertise.
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 ended at the end of 2013.
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 was 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.

For more information, visit


Other researchers

Dr Jen Muggleton BSc (Eng), ACGI, PhD, MA

Principal Research Fellow

Research interests

  • Detection and location of buried infrastructure using vibration techniques.
  • Acoustic leak detection in pipes.
  • Vibration of fluid-filled pipes.

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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