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Drones could be used to locate potholes

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on 13 August 2021 that the Department for Transport will use drones to fly over highway surfaces and locate potholes as part of a new £15 million government scheme for road improvements. 

The solution, sought after it was found that the repair bill for the UK’s road surface damage was an estimated £10.4 billion and would take almost a decade to clear, was recommended by the Digital Intelligence Brokerage (DIB). 

The DIB was created, with the support of the Department for Transport, to research and address the extent of the pothole problem throughout the UK. Their recommendation was based on a pilot in Wiltshire Council.

Surface damage located by the drones will potentially be mended using 3D printer technology.

The DIB produced a report – ‘The Potholes Challenge: Achieving a Sustainable Response to Potholes’ – which outlined the following objectives:

  • Safety: Potential to reduce risks and improve safety for road users and operatives.
  • Customer: Potential to improve the road users and residents experience.
  • Communication: Potential to improve communications between the public, operatives and other stakeholders.
  • Repair efficiency: Potential to save time identifying and repairing defects.
  • Effectiveness: Potential to improve quality and durability, and to reduce the costs of repairs.
  • Data capture and utilisation: Potential to collect and understand relevant information.

The report also highlighted the fact that fleet organisations have untapped information that could be an opportunity. It said, “Motoring organisations and fleet owners are well placed to understand the impact on vehicles which have allowed them to compile national estimates of damage caused by potholes. Additionally, they have developed technology which can geospatially locate which road surface failures have resulted in damage to vehicles”.

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