Robotic roadworks revolution to save time, money and effort

Posted on 4 Nov 2019 by The Manufacturer

A robot capable of repairing underground gas mains 10-times faster than a person is being put to work under some of the busiest roads in the UK.

The Cisbot, or Cast Iron Joint Sealing Robot, is deployed to fix the ageing underground pipes of Britain’s gas network at a fraction of the speed of its human counterparts, significantly minimising disruption to motorists and pedestrians.

The Cisbot, or Cast Iron Joint Sealing Robot, is deployed to fix the ageing underground pipes
“We need fewer and smaller excavations which means a lot less disruption for road users,” – Graeme Cleeton of ULC Robotics

Developed by ULC Robotics, headquartered at the North Feltham Trading Estate and in New York, Cisbot is capable of repairing 100 metres of gas mains in seven days, as opposed to the usual 10 weeks it might take a human team and inside a much smaller excavation site.

Operators sitting in a vehicle above ground lower Cisbot beneath the road fitted with an on-board camera where it injects a sealant into gas main joints via remote control.

It can reportedly travel up to 426m underground from a single excavation, removing the need to dig long trenches in the road to access pipes.

The robot recruit is currently being used by at least two major gas distributors, including Cadent and SGN, for joint sealing operations throughout the capital and across the UK.

Cisbot has travelled through 44km of gas pipes upgrading more than 12,000 joints for SGN alone.

The company has put the new hire to work in some of London’s most traffic-sensitive areas including Clapham Common North Side (A3) and Nightingale Lane in Clapham in South London, as well as in George Street in Edinburgh, Kingsway/King’s Road along Brighton seafront and St Philip’s Avenue in Eastbourne.

“Cisbot dramatically reduces disruption,” said Graeme Cleeton of ULC Robotics. “We need fewer and smaller excavations and can also carry out the work much faster all of which means a lot less disruption for road users. Another major benefit is that Cisbot can work in live gas pipes.”

Cadent‘s head of operations for London, James Harrison said Cisbot was helping to lead a “robotic roadworks revolution” enabling network improvements to be carried out “smoother and more economically than before”.

John Richardson, head of innovation at SGN added: “CISBOT technology… saves time and money, which is excellent news for motorists, our customers, and the local community.”

By Rory Butler, Staff Journalist

*Images courtesy of ULC Robotics