Drones and 3D printing being explored to fix potholes

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New technology including drones and 3D printing could be used to find and fix potholes as part of a raft of measures to improve local roads across England, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

The announcement comes after the UK government published findings from a new initiative called the Digital Intelligence Brokerage (DIB), which aims to encourage more work with small and medium enterprises outside of the transport sector and to speed up research into new and innovative ways to fix potholes.

The DIB has so far identified graphite nanoparticles in asphalt to reduce surface cracks; the use of bio-bitumen materials to create environmentally friendly road surfaces that contribute to the decarbonisation of highways maintenance; and automated repair operations to minimise risk to road maintenance workers.

The work supports wider government commitments to use advanced technology, such as drones to spot defects in roads and 3D printing to repair cracks.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said: “Additional investment to cut congestion and make pothole repairs better for the future is very welcome. Hitting a pothole can be an expensive and even a dangerous experience.

“We look forward to seeing how drivers and road users more widely can benefit from the use of 21st-century technology to repair their local roads more quickly.

Councils will be expected to not only use the extra funding to consider how to future-proof their local road networks and prepare for technological innovations.

In addition to these measures, DfT has also today announced the development of a new data standard for local road condition monitoring, which will allow councils to use multiple technologies to carry out road condition surveys for national reporting purposes.

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