Robots and drones to fix self-repairing cities

Scientists at the University of Leeds are developing robots and drones that can repair faulty streetlights and potholes as part of a broader effort to create cities that can fix themselves with minimal environmental impact.

According to an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the university is leading a USD 6.5 million national research project to develop small robots that can spot problems such as leaky pipes, burnt-out streetlights and potholes and fix them — without human intervention.

The researchers are developing three classes of drones: Perch and Repair, which perch on rooftops like birds to repair hard-to-reach places such as streetlights; Perceive and Patch, to autonomously inspect, diagnose, repair and even prevent potholes in roads; and Fire and Forget, which will operate indefinitely in live utility pipes to perform inspection, repair and metering tasks. After being tested, the robots will be deployed on a trial basis on the streets of Leeds, reports the Post.

The idea is to create a so-called ‘self-repairing city’ in which robots work to fix problems with minimal environmental impact and disruption to the public. City infrastructure “can be entirely maintained by robots and make the disruption caused by the constant digging up the road in our cities a thing of the past,” explains Professor Phil Purnell from the School of Civil Engineering, who is leading the research team.


Photo credit: Ars Electronica, flickr/Creative Commons

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