The maintenance of a city is no joke, a lot of effort has to be put in. University of Leeds has started working on a project that would ensure that all these labor intensive tasks are taken care of timely before they become a bigger problem by utilizing an army of drones. These drones would become the silent guardians of our city where they will tend to issues as soon as they appear.
The research project is worth $6.4 million and aims at bringing the ‘self-repairing cities’ into play. The goal is to create a team of small robots that will be able to detect problems pertaining to infrastructure right when they pop up thus preventing them from escalating into issues that require large scale repairs. Professor Phil Purnell from the university’s School of Civil Engineering said, “We want to make Leeds the first city in the world to have zero disruption from street works. We can support infrastructure which 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.”
The research has been broken down into three groups with each group targeting a specific kind of problem being tackled by a specific machine. The first group has been termed as ‘perch and repair’ and features drones that will perch on structures just like birds and shall swoop in to repair things such as blown out street lights. The second group, ‘perceive and patch’, shall cover drones that will be developed so that they keep a watch over the city streets while detecting autonomously and repairing potholes in roads. The third and last group has been dubbed as ‘fire and forget’. This group shall entail drones that will work independently and shall live inside utility pipes indefinitely where they will be responsible for carrying out inspections, metering, repairs and reporting tasks.
Dr. Raul Fuentes from the university’s School of Civil Engineering said, “The critical part of this project is being proactive rather than reactive. This is crucial to ensuring we have sustainable and resilient infrastructure. We will target our interventions so that they are invisible to the human eye, before they become a real problem.”
As to how this all will be accomplished, we are still in the dark. The real issue here is how the drones will be programmed to carry out the mentioned tasks in densely populated areas. Purnell claims that the robots will be ready for testing next year. Fingers crossed!