Researchers from the University of Leeds said that they will be creating small robots that could identify utility problems, and in turn, would cause minimal public disruption. They will first build drones that could perch on street lamps, fix potholes, and go through pipes to inspect and repair utility problems that may arise.
"We want to make Leeds the first city in the world to have zero disruption from street works," said Professor Phil Purnell, lead researcher from the university's School of Civil Engineering. This project could pave the way for "self-repairing cities", researchers say.
In detail, the project will focus on three areas. The first is Perch and Repair where drones similar to birds can perform tasks such as replacing light bulbs on street lamps. The second is Perceive and Patch where drones can inspect, diagnose, repair and prevent potholes found on roads. The last one is Fire and Forget where drones can go into sewers and perform tasks such as metering and inspection.
Rob Richardson, director of the National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems at the university, explained that the robots they are developing will undergo precision repairs and avoid the need for any large construction vehicles to be used. He said that to have an efficient system, robots must learn to detect weaknesses and faults early and then quickly complete smart repairs.
The university's engineering team will work with UK Collaboration for Research and Infrastructure and Cities as well as with Leeds City Council to test the initial drones before being used in the city. The team will also look into the environmental, economic, political and social impact of their new project.
The university's project is under the Engineering Grand Challenges program which aims to solve major engineering and science problems.
A few weeks before the announcement from the University of Leeds, accountancy firm Deloitte and the University of Oxford released a research that delved into the possibility that most jobs today will become automated in the future.
Most likely, office jobs that require spreadsheets and reports will be computerized, as well as jobs including factory work and taxi driving.