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Drones could be used to seek out potholes




Pothole-seeking drones could be deployed to improve the UK’s pothole-plagued roads.

A Government-supported project to identify innovative solutions to tackle potholes recommended that a trial of automated drones is launched.

The Digital Intelligence Brokerage (DIB) said a consortium of small and medium-sized enterprises could use this “cutting-edge approach” to assess the condition of highways in rural and urban areas.

Pothole-seeking drones could be deployed to improve the UK’s pothole-plagued roads (50198344)
Pothole-seeking drones could be deployed to improve the UK’s pothole-plagued roads (50198344)

Recent figures show that Lincolnshire County Council spent £452,843 in pothole damage claims in 2019/20 alone - the fourth highest figure in the UK.

DIB noted that consideration would need to be given to the “risks of using automated equipment on or above a live highway network”.

Other measures recommended by the DIB include using a video app to inspect the quality of work carried out on highways, and making the shape of pothole repairs circular rather than square to avoid weak points in corners.

Drones and 3D printing could help solve the misery of potholes for motorists
Drones and 3D printing could help solve the misery of potholes for motorists

The DIB was tasked with collating potential solutions for Wiltshire Council, but it said the proposals could be used by “other local authorities across the UK”.

A report by trade body the Asphalt Industry Alliance published in March stated that councils in England and Wales would need to spend a total of £10 billion over a decade to bring all their roads up to scratch.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it continues to encourage research into the use of technology to combat potholes, such as through drones to spot road defects and 3D printing to repair cracks.

A report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance suggested it would cost £10 billion over a decade to bring all roads up to scratch
A report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance suggested it would cost £10 billion over a decade to bring all roads up to scratch

While some have backed the use of technology in the fight against potholes AA president Edmund King warned that pothole repairs will “depend on council priorities and schedules”.

He said: “Councils often prefer to wait until a road has reached a point where a large number of defects makes it cost-effective to repair it.

“One of the fundamental issues is the depth that a pothole needs to get to before anything is done about it. An ‘intervention’ depth of 40 millimetres may be barely acceptable for cars but lethal for cyclists.

“Arguably, less sophisticated reporting systems like ‘Fix My Street’ and council websites are more effective than drones because nasty defects are highlighted by the road users themselves. More should be done to advertise this type of reporting.”

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