Apr 2018
Gas Distribution
Robotic Roadworks and Excavation System (RRES)
Apr 2018
Apr 2021
Oliver Machan, Innovation Project Manager
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Network Innovation Competition
GD - Mains Replacement
Maintenance & Inspection and Gas Distribution Networks
Disruption from roadworks and excavations is a primary concern for GB residents, businesses and road users. The next transformational phase in the performance of network excavations and operations will require the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with advanced digital tooling to automate routine works, making them quicker, safer, more cost effective and consistent.

The Robotic Roadworks & Excavation System (RRES) is the future for precision excavation and utility operations technology. The system will use advanced robotic arm technology fused with a mobile platform and AI working with a suite of sensors and controls to enable autonomous, safe and efficient mains excavation. Once exposed, the RRES will attach a newly developed universal access fitting to the main to enable a set of inspection and maintenance operations to be performed. This next generation system will enable urban and large rural excavation to be performed faster and at a lower cost and with greater safety than is currently possible using the most advanced methods available today.

During the project we will design, develop and field test a complete RRES capable of performing automated works on buried urban utilities via coring as well as safely excavating rural infrastructure.
The RRES project will be broken down into a series of delivery milestones with associated payment triggers and go/no-go project stage gates. Each element will focus on specific milestones with the opportunity to review and reassess before proceeding to the next. The elements are broadly as follows:

Element 1 - Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Sensor and Tooling Development:
  1. Robotic arm excavation control development;
  2. Below ground machine vision capability development;
  3. Excavation `soft-touch' tooling and equipment development;
  4. AI development and subsystem control integration;
  5. Element 1 subsystem and integrated system testing.
Element 2 - Mobile Platform, Vehicle & Support Equipment Development:
  1. Mobile platform specification determination and development;
  2. Support equipment and control development;
  3. Support vehicle specification determination and development;
  4. Universal Network access fitting development;
  5. Software development to integrate data from above ground surveys with RRES;
  6. Element 2 subsystem and integrated system testing. 
Element 3 - Final System Integration and Initial Field Testing:
  1. Element 1-2 system integration;
  2. RRES field test (alpha).
Element 4 - Enhancements from Field Testing and Live Gas Testing:
  1. System and subsystem development and modification based on alpha testing outcomes;
  2. Final RRES build;
  3. RRES field test (beta).
Each Element of the project will progress specific technology through the TRLs and will deliver valuable learning.