Video | ‘World first’ services excavation robot in action

22 January 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

A robot that can detect services using sensors and then perform excavations autonomously, has been unveiled by a gas distribution firm and a US-based robotics firm in what they claim is a world first.

UCL Robotics has partnered with gas network company SGN to tackle what they say is the industry’s most costly and disruptive job – excavation.

The Robotic Roadworks and Excavation System (RRES) project combines an industrial robot, an all-electric track drive system, below-ground locating sensors, artificial intelligence, machine vision, and new vacuum excavation methods.

SGN and ULC Robotics claimed that the project, funded by energy regulator Ofgem, will reduce accidental damages to buried infrastructure, minimise carbon emissions and improve the safety and speed of utility excavation and construction

John Richardson, head of innovation at SGN said: “Because we operate 76,000km of underground pipelines in the UK and dig thousands of excavations every year, we recognise the need for smarter roadworks. We’re leading the effort to change utility excavation by investing in the development of technology to address this global problem.”

Ali Asmari, program manager at ULC Robotics added: “We are at the midway point of the project and in partnership with SGN we have been able to create the world’s first functional all-electric autonomous excavation robot.

“There is a significant amount of work remaining, including the development of additional tools and support equipment, as well as testing and validating the robotic operation in different environments, but we have an outstanding team and are confident that the robot will be ready to work come 2021.”

Initial field trials of RRES are scheduled to take place in 2020 on the SGN network.

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