UK invests £26.6 million in developing micro-robots to work in dangerous environment

Working in underground pipe systems not only wastes too much time and money, but also puts human in danger. Recently, the UK government decided to invest millions in developing micro-robots to work in and reach hazardous environment.

Small robots will be set up in underground pipe to make repairs. They could reach unsafe locations like offshore windfarms and nuclear decommissioning facilities.

With a £7.2 million government investment, scientists from four British universities led by a professor at the University of Sheffield, Kirill Horoshenkov, will develop devices which are 1 cm long with sensors and navigation systems.

As part of a £26.6 million investment by the UK government, it is hoped that devices will spell the end for disruption caused by the 1.5 million road excavations that happen annually.

A further 14 projects will focus on how to use robotics in hazardous environment with a fund of £19.4 million.

Skidmore said: “While for now we can only dream of a world without roadworks disrupting our lives, these pipe-repairing robots herald the start of technology that could make that dream a reality in the future.”

Sir Mark Walport, UKRI’s chief executive, said: “The projects announced today demonstrate how robots and artificial intelligence will revolutionize the way we carry out complex and dangerous tasks, from maintaining offshore wind farms to decommissioning nuclear power facilities.

“They also illustrate the leading role that the UK’s innovators are playing in developing these new technologies which will improve safety and boost productivity and efficiency.”

This project could be a step forward in developing robots and applications in society. However, there is still a need for control from humans. Boston Global Forum and Michael Dukakis Institute are studying the ethical framework for safely using robots and AI with the AIWS Initiative.