The government is investing more than £26 million to build micro robots that will be able to undertake repairs on the underground pipe network, dramatically reducing roadworks in the process.
Every year, 1.5 million road excavations take place to repair sectors of the UK’s vast underground pipe network.
With these repairs, significant disruption follows because roadworks have to be put into place to allow for excavation so that work can be completed.
But now, scientists from four British universities will take £7 million of government investment to create robotic devices, complete with sensors and navigation systems that will be able to find and repair cracks in pipes.
In addition to this funding, 14 further projects have been backed by government investment to the tune of £19.6 million that will see micro robots used to work in hazardous places such as nuclear decommissioning facilities.
New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) software will be tested on satellites in orbit that will detect when repairs are needed.
Traffic closures and roadworks are a huge drain to businesses and the economy, estimated to cost up to £5 billion.
With these micro robots, not only will disruption and costs be significantly reduced, but safety will also be increased because people will be spared from working in hazardous environments.
Chris Skidmore, Science Minister, believes this technology will deliver huge advantages.
He said: “While for now we can only dream of a world without roadworks disrupting our lives, these pipe-repairing robots herald the start of technology that could make that dream a reality in the future.
“From deploying robots in our pipe network so cutting down traffic delays, to using robots in workplaces to keep people safer, this new technology could change the world we live in for the better.
“We have put research and development at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy, with the biggest boost to funding in UK history to create high skill jobs and boost productivity across the country.”