Drones for good: UAVs and 3D printers may be the future of road repairs [VIDEO]

- Feilidh Dwyer | WeTalkUAV

Researchers from Leeds University, UK, have built a drone prototype that can be used in conjunction with 3D printers to repair damaged roads.

The Leeds team worked in collaboration with another group at University College of London who created the world’s first 3D bitumen printer.

Over the past two and a half years, the two universities have worked on multiple iterations of their drones and printers. The Leeds team are currently using a DJI Matrice 600, a versatile six-rotor industrial UAV, alongside the printing technology.

These two projects are part of a wider program called Self-Repairing Cities. According to the program’s website, Repairing Cities aims towards zero disruption from street-works in UK cities by 2050. They aim to achieve this by developing robots that will identify, diagnose and repair street-works through minimally invasive techniques.

How would such a system work?

As we know, present-day roadworks can be very disruptive and often cause delays and public consternation. If the drones and 3D system were to be implemented as intended, the emphasis in future would be on preventative maintenance, rather than waiting to repair damage once it starts to cause problems.

Preventative road maintenance would involve survey vehicles continuously checking the quality of the road either from the road or air using special cameras. If cracks were detected, GPS would guide the repair drones to the problem area. Next, the 3D printer’s mounted asphalt extruder lines up above the crack and releases the exact amount of material needed to repair the damage, resulting in less wastage. Advantages of such a system, when compared to that status quo include lower cost, greater efficiency and quieter repairs. To date, the Leed’s team have tested their drones successfully while repairing damage at their campus’ carpark.

Drones and 3D printers may herald a pothole-free future

The UK is not the only country investigating the efficacy of road repair drones.

But won’t this replace yet more jobs?

In short – yes. As time goes on, more manual jobs in the agricultural, construction, energy and other sectors are likely to be replaced by drones. This replacement isn’t likely to happen any time soon and there will, of course, be types of repairs required (such as following a natural disaster) that are of a scale that will make dispatching automated drones ineffective when compared to humans.

Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to hearing more about this project as it continues to develop.

To check out a video of the drone in action see below:

Information for this article was collected from World Highways.com

To see other drones for good stories try:

Mud-spraying drones can construct emergency shelters

Drones can ‘sniff’ toxic gasses in disaster zones

Original article at WeTalkUAV, here.

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