When the subject of infrastructure and construction comes up, lots of people think skyscrapers, sprawling developments, bridges, roadways, and other structures that can be seen. It’s easy to overlook just how much of our infrastructure extends below the ground, and not just in the form of subways and tunnels. Miles of pipe carrying water, cables, gas, and more, make our modern life possible. They are also difficult and costly to create and maintain but scientists and engineers are looking at way robots could help us in settings underneath our feet and save us a lot of digging.

Robot can inspect water or gas pipes from the inside to find leaks long before they become catastrophic

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Image Source: Phys.org

Data To Detect Leaks

Researchers at MIT have created a drone that may be a fast and inexpensive solution for locating leaks in water distribution systems. Unlike conventional leak detection equipment, this small, rubbery robotic device can be used in wood, clay, plastic, as well as metal pipes. As the drone passively travels through a water system, starting at one hydrant and exiting through another, it detects slight variations in pressure and collects the data, which can then be used to determine specific points in need of repair.

Water Conservation And Cost Savings

No service interruption or digging is needed. The savings of that, combined with the potential to stop a considerable amount of water-loss resulting from leaks, and this small device could be a game-changer for water conservation and municipal budgets. Cities around the world have expressed their interest in the development, with some sponsoring and collaborating on MIT’s research. Currently the developers are working on a more flexible and compact version that can adapt to pipe systems with more varied diameters.

BADGER underground digging robot

Image Source: IEEE Spectrum

Enhanced Excavation With BADGER

Another robot designed specifically for use underground is the EU sponsored and developed BADGER project. The “robot for autonomous underground trenchless operations, mapping and navigation” is able to autonomously drill underground while atomically navigating around existing infrastructure. It can also efficiently clear through rocks and other organic obstructions in its way. BADGER can travel winding paths underground, unlike most excavation equipment used by the construction industry. In addition to accommodating various tool modules for different types of excavation jobs, it may even be paired with 3D printing technology that would essentially create tunnel walls behind it.


What do you think about the use of autonomous technology in these settings? Comment and let us know.

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