The small size of these construction robots could negate the need for road disruption during pipe repairs.
Construction is an industry notorious for its lengths and often inconvenient effects. The incorporation of technology often seeks to diminish this, with drones assisting in building lightweight structures and robots constructing scaffolding. Now tiny robots could drastically improve one of Britain’s most well-known nuisances: roadworks.
26.6 million GBP in funding from the UK government’s modern Industrial Strategy has been allocated to develop micro robots. Their aim is to be able to fix underground pipes. Such repairs often result in the above roads closing down entirely to allow for digging up the ground to access the pipes in question. At the moment, 1.5 million road excavations take place, costing the public over 5 billion GBP every year. It will also help reduce workplace incidents as these robots can enter hazardous environments instead of humans. Not only will the robots be able to make repairs and carry out regular maintenance, but also inspect oil and gas pressure vessels and offshore wind turbines. They are versatile, having flying and underwater versions, and so can adapt to various different environments.
Four British universities will combine their intellect to develop 1 centimetre-long robotic devices using 7 million of the government investment. These devices will use sensors and navigation systems to find and mend cracks in pipes. A further 14 projects will take a further 19.6 million of the investment. These will likely send robots to offshore wind-farms and nuclear decommissioning facilities. Such areas are deemed too hazardous for humans workers. Researchers will also test new technologies as part of the scheme, ranging from the use of AI software on satellites to the potential implementation of drones in oil pipeline monitoring.