Researchers receive £7 million to develop robots that detect underground leaks
The University of Sheffield and the University of Leeds are collaborating with the Universities of Bristol and Birmingham on a £7 million engineering project that will greatly improve the way that leaks in underground pipes are identified. Currently, locating pipe damage in complex underground systems can result in expensive and disruptive excavations that cost the UK approximately £5.5 billion a year. But engineers on the team led by the University of Sheffield are developing robots which can move independently through underground pipe networks, monitoring and inspecting the infrastructure. This means that any damage can be identified at an early stage and dealt with efficiently, rather than having to dig up roads in search of the leak. This will minimise disruption to households, businesses and traffic in general.
Professor Kirill V Horoshenkov, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: “This innovation will be the first of its kind to deploy swarms of miniaturised robots in buried pipes together with other emerging in-pipe sensor, navigation and communication solutions with long-term autonomy.”
The project will make use of the University of Sheffield’s new Integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre (ICAIR), and is support by a £7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) .