Jun 15, 2018 | By Thomas

Britain's road network will soon be repaired by robots capable of filling in a pothole in a minute, scientists have predicted.

A fleet of autonomous road vehicles or drones will scan roads looking for cracks and fixing them before potholes develop. Upon spotting a crack in the road, a robot with an attached 3D printer will be able to spray asphalt into a crack in the road to repair it, all within a minute.

Experts said that the autonomous vehicles or drones could operate at night, completing their work at night in order to avoid daily road closures that can severely disrupt traffic.

Professor Mark Miodownik of University College London said Leeds City Council was working with a team of engineers and designers to pioneer the concept of "self-repairing cities”.

He told the Cheltenham Science Festival that Britain's road network was falling apart due the backlog of repairs and the authorities did not have the money or manpower to take preventative measures.

He said, "Our idea is that when these small cracks happen we want to be able to see them - a drone flying around the road network would see them - and another drone would land and repair them."

"You do it at night and we can do it in about a minute. You stop over the crack, you repair the crack and it's done.

"You could stop the traffic at 4am, hold it up for a minute.

"For motorways it is a different problem but for roads in Cheltenham and bigger cities, I think night-time autonomous vehicles would have almost no impact on traffic.”

“This is going to be a big future for us all. What is immediately possible now for 'self-repairing cities' is an exciting prospect in all of our lives,” the Professor adds.

“This is probably become a reality. There are all sorts of ethical and moral issues in putting robots in a city environment.

“Unless the public and policy-makers are involved right at the beginning of this technology, which is now, the chances of it advancing to the point where they feel excluded or we can see a future that no-one really wants is high.”

Professor Miodownik said the technology could also be used in the construction industry, with spot-welding machines attached to the robots.

Professor Rob Richardson, Director of the National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems at the University of Leeds added the technology could also be used to fix pipes before they burst and maintain street lights and other utilities without the need for highly disruptive road closures.

“Our aim is for robots to undertake precision repairs and avoid the need for large construction vehicles in the heart of our cities.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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