Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

University of Leeds to develop robots to self-repair potholes

The University of Leeds is leading a pioneering £4.2m national infrastructure research project with the vision of creating self-repairing cities.

The project will develop small robots to identify problems with utility pipes, street lights and roads and fix them with minimal environmental impact and disruption to the public.

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and was announced today by the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson.

It is part of a £21m funding for ‘Engineering Grand Challenges’ research, which aims to tackle some of the major challenges facing science and engineering.

The researchers will initially develop new robot designs and technologies in three areas:

"Perch and Repair" – research to develop drones that can perch, like birds, on structures at height and perform repair tasks, such as repairing street lights.

"Perceive and Patch" - research to develop drones able to autonomously inspect, diagnose, repair and prevent potholes in roads;

"Fire and forget" – research to develop robots which will operate indefinitely within live utility pipes performing inspection, repair, metering and reporting tasks.

The team will work with Leeds City Council and the UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) to ensure that the robots are thoroughly tested before being trialled in a safe and responsible manner in Leeds.

Professor Phil Purnell, from the School of Civil Engineering, is leading the research team. He said: “We want to make Leeds the first city in the world to have zero disruption from street works.

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