Researchers developing drones to autonomously repair the cities of the future

A lot of time and effort goes into keeping our cities in working order. Potholes need filling, power lines need maintaining and street light globes need replacing when blown. But a new initiative led by the University of Leeds could soon see these labor-intensive tasks taken care of by an army of drones that keep a watchful eye over our streets, tending to cracks in our urban environment the moment they begin to appear.

The £4.2 million (US$6.4 million) research project carries the overarching aim of ushering in “self-repairing cities.” That is, the goal is to develop a team of small robots that detect problems with infrastructure as soon as the pop up, to prevent them developing into inconvenient roadworks or other larger repair projects.

“We want to make Leeds the first city in the world to have zero disruption from street works,” says Professor Phil Purnell, from the university’s School of Civil Engineering. “We can support infrastructure which can be entirely maintained by robots and make the disruption caused by the constant digging up the road in our cities a thing of the past.”

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