SGN and ULC Robotics form new partnership

A gas network company and a robotics firm have established a new utility excavation partnership.

SGN and ULC Robotics will work together to develop the world’s first robotic roadworks and excavation system to transform utility excavation, the Robotic Roadworks and Excavation System (RRES).

SGN’s gas pipes are buried underneath UK roads and pavements, making excavations in the road essential for maintaining and upgrading the network.

These excavations cause disruptions to residents and road users and have associated safety implications, which SGN is committed to reducing by investing in technology to alleviate these issues.

SGN Head of Innovation John Richardson said after operating 76,000 km of underground pipelines in the UK and digging thousands of excavations each year, SGN has recognised 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,” said Mr Richardson.

The RRES project combines an industrial robot, all-electric track drive system, below-ground locating sensor, artificial intelligence, machine vision and new vacuum excavation methods.

Funded by Ofgem, the collaborative project will reduce accidental damages to buried infrastructure, minimise carbon emissions and improve both the safety and speed of utility excavation and construction.

ULC Robotics PhD Program Manager Ali Asmari said the project is currently at the halfway point.

“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,” said Mr Asmari.

RRES’ initial field trials are scheduled to take place on the SGN network later this year.

For more information visit the SGN website.

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