Investment from the UK government into small underwater and flying robots to help repair the underground pipe network is to total £26.6m.
£7m of the funding will be used to support scientists at four British universities to develop 1cm long robotic devices that use sensors and navigation systems to find and fix cracks in pipes.
The robots, which will also be used to inspect and maintain oil and gas pressure vessels and offshore wind turbines, are hoped to help alleviate the disruption caused by the one and a half million road excavations that take place each year.
The remaining £19.6m of the investment will go towards the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) which oversees robots sent into other hazardous work places.
Discussing the move, science sinister Chris 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.”
He continued: “From deploying robots in our pipe network so cutting down traffic delays, to using robots in workplaces to keep people safer, this new technology could change the world we live in for the better. Experts in our top UK universities across the country are well-equipped to develop this innovative new technology.”
Chief executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Professor Sir Mark Walport, thinks the announcement outlines how AI can make dangerous tasks safer.
He said: “The projects announced today demonstrate how robots and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way we carry out complex and dangerous tasks, from maintaining offshore wind farms to decommissioning nuclear power facilities.”
He added: “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.”