Drones to hunt down potholes in multi-million-pound scheme

Drones to hunt down potholes in multi-million-pound scheme
Drivers could soon benefit from drones being used to tackle the UK’s pothole-ridden roads as part of a government-backed scheme.

The automated devices will be flown over road surfaces to locate the pesky potholes and there are also plans to use 3D printing to fix the cracks.

This comes alongside a £15 million Department for Transport (DfT) fund to improve English roads, including traffic light maintenance.

Proposals for the drones were put forward by the Digital Intelligence Brokerage (DIB) – supported by the government – which said a consortium of small and medium-sized enterprises could use this “cutting-edge approach” to assess the condition of highways in rural and urban areas.

It noted that consideration would need to be given to the “risks of using automated equipment on or above a live highway network”.

Other DIB recommendations include using video technology to check the quality of roadworks, and to make the shape of pothole repairs circular instead of square to avoid weak points in corners.

DIB was originally given the task of coming up with potential solutions for Wiltshire Council, but said the proposals could be used by other local authorities across the UK.

A report published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance in March said councils in England and Wales would need to spend more than £10 billion over a decade to bring all their roads up to scratch.

The DfT says it continues to encourage research into new and innovative technology, such as 3D printing and drones, to help find and fix potholes faster and more effectively.

It also announced which English councils will receive a share of the £15 million fund to improve traffic light systems to cut congestion, raise safety and reduce journey times and emissions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Whether you’re a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, every road user across our country deserves the best possible journey.

“That’s why, despite already having some of the best and safest roads in the world, this government is providing millions of pounds to improve them further still.

“This vital funding and work will cut journey times for millions of people, reduce emissions and keep the UK at the forefront of technological developments in roads maintenance as we continue to invest in local economies and build back both better and greener from the pandemic.”

RAC Head of Roads Policy Nicholas Lyes said: “Additional investment to cut congestion and make pothole repairs better for the future is very welcome.

“Improving traffic lights can make a significant difference to local roads by efficiently maximising the number of vehicles which can safely pass through junctions, while hitting a pothole can be an expensive and even dangerous experience, so we look forward to seeing how drivers and road users more widely can benefit from the use of 21st century technology to repair their local roads more quickly.”

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