Our vision

is an intelligent, robust and resilient buried pipe system that moves us towards failure free operation and so ends unnecessary & unplanned road excavation.

Our ambition

is to create the new science, knowledge, technical capabilities and means of practical translation to transform the capabilities of utilities to manage their buried pipe networks.

Our research objectives

  1. to develop a new science of sensing for high fidelity in-pipe inspection;
  2. to integrate this new science with robotic, navigation and communication solutions to work autonomously in large buried infrastructure networks;
  3. to advance this science from a laboratory prototype to field scales;
  4. to engage actively with the end user community throughout the project to address their technical challenges;
  5. to co-create the research with key UK stakeholders to ensure a rapid uptake of this technology;
  6. to establish a world leading research Centre of Autonomous Sensing for Buried Infrastructure.

Academic research leads

University of Sheffield
Prof. Kirill V. Horoshenkov (Programme Director)
Dr. Sean Anderson (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping)
Prof. Simon J. Tait (System Integration)

University of Bristol
Prof. Bruce Drinkwater (Sensors)
Prof. Anthony Croxford (Sensing)

University of Birmingham
Prof. Chris D. F. Rogers (Deputy Programme Director)
Prof. Nicole Metje (User Engagement)

University of Leeds
Prof. Robert Richardson (Robotics)
Prof. Netta Cohen (Artificial Intelligence)
Prof. Ian Robertson (Communication)


The replacement value of UK buried water and wastewater pipes, a network with a length of approximately 1m km, is between £300B and £600B. Similar figures can be assigned to the gas supply network. While pipe inspection technologies used by these industries have progressed, the lack of comprehensive knowledge about the condition of buried pipes results in sporadic, unforeseen failures. As a result, there are 1.5M road excavations per year in the UK causing full or partial road closures and a cost to the UK of at least £5.5B per year. Without the transformative step-change in pervasive sensing proposed herein, this situation will worsen exponentially as our infrastructure ages.

Importance and impact

Safe and secure water and energy supply is fundamental to society, but is faced with global challenges from climate change, water stress, carbon targets, demographic change, urbanisation and cost constraints.The new technology platform which we propose to develop will benefit:

  1. utility companies and their sub-contractors through enabling them to monitor their hidden pipe infrastructure autonomously and on an unprecedented scale, to facilitate their advanced decision making processes leading to proactive rehabilitation strategies and hence cost reduction;
  2. instrument manufacturers through enabling them to produce new sensing and rehabilitation solutions which are
    in high demand by utility companies globally;
  3. the general public through greatly reduced failures and interruption in the services provided by the utilities leading to more sustainable supply, fewer road closures and less traffic disruptions.