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News from the UK Civils Industry 1st May 2019

Posted by: Melonie Debenham
Industry News

Eric the robot makes highways work safer and faster

A highways robot has completed its first section of work on the A14, Cambridge to Huntingdon for WJ South. Eric is an autonomous line marker which reduces margin for human error and improves productivity, resulting in a reduction in the hours spent by vulnerable highway operatives working on the roads.

Eric is ideal for the task - easily transportable to site, weighing only 18kg and fitting in the boot of a car. It’s completely autonomous using GNSS for its navigation and can mark out centre lines, and car park bays, and via a USB can mark out other shape such as arrows, lettering, hatching, numbers and even logos.

The robot has been used on several other projects so far, vastly increasing productivity. On the M4 for Colas/Balfour Beatty the robot was tasked to mark out the back of the hard shoulder line along a 5km section on both sides of the carriageway. The robot completed the task ‘safely’ in five hours, a job that would normally take an engineer four shifts.

Balfour Beatty asked WJ for 8km of setting out for surface works on the M6 J4-J2. The robot marked out the job at one metre centres in about three hours. Site agent Maciej Kozlowski commented: “My engineers were absolutely astonished with the robot, setting that out would have taken both of them a week.”

Eric isn’t only fast, it’s also accurate. It marked out 3km of outside lane edge along the M1 for Costain & Galliford Try JV and when the engineers went to check the marking, they found using Geomax Zenith gps/gnss system that over the 3km the robot averaged a 5mm tolerance, which is well within the 25mm tolerance engineers normally work to.

On the M60 Manchester Smart Motorway the robot was used to mark out the slip road and the tigers tail detail. This is a task that is notoriously difficult to complete by hand, whereas the robot completed it with ease, more than halving the time it typically takes to carry out the activity. Upon his maiden voyage for WJ South, Eric the Robot completed the same amount of work that an engineer would complete in around a day and a half, in approximately 2 hours. Within minutes of the robot completing the job, a fleet of WJ Specialist Lining & Stud Vehicles were arriving to work on site.

David Bayley of WJ Group, who accompanied Eric, said: “The efficiency of the whole operation is absolutely incredible and to see this innovation come to life and perform was brilliant.

“When you really think about it, the amount of work that the robot can get through in a couple of hours is absolutely incredible. The amount of time this will save us out on the network is huge and enables us to boost the speed of our job, carrying out marking and/or stud installation much quicker.” Full story.

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Yorkshire Water unveil £72 million facility

Yorkshire Water’s £72 million sludge treatment facility at Knostrop is now nearing completion, three years after the project was started in April 2016.

The digesters are the largest to be constructed in the Yorkshire Water region and will have the capacity to treat 131 tonnes of dry sludge produced at the Knostrop works as well as sludge imported from other treatment works across the wider Yorkshire region.

The four huge digesters were seeded with material from the Blackburn Meadows site in Sheffield. During filling, the digesters were nitrogen purged to ensure anaerobic conditions. Aqua Enviro were responsible for continual monitoring during the introduction of the seed biomass to ensure the good health of the digester was preserved. Once up and running, the first digester was subject to a tracer test to verify efficient mixing of the material within the vessel and sufficient retention time to allow optimal gas production.

Other equipment on site such as drum thickeners for thickening the incoming sludge and centrifuges for dewatering the digestate were also performance tested to ensure they were operating with design criteria. Full story.

Yorkshire Water invests £10 million in acoustic loggers

To save millions of litres of water being leaked from water pipes, Yorkshire Water is planning to invest £10m to install a world record 34,000 acoustic loggers into its underground pipe network to audibly detect any water escapes.

The investment is expected to help meet a target of reducing leakage by 15% by 2020 and a further 25% by 2025.

During a trial of the technology, 600 of the devices installed in the pipe network in West Yorkshire helped to identify 35 leaks in one month, which helped to save approximately 86,400 litres of water from being wasted.

Following the successful trial, Yorkshire Water will now proceed to install 34,000 more of the devices by October this year covering 20% of its water distribution areas. This will bring its total count to 40,000, more than any other water company in the world.

Martyn Hattersley, Head of Leakage Operations at Yorkshire Water, said: “Each acoustic logger is capable of identifying a leak within a 150 meters radius, which is much more accurate than current technology allows. It will give us a much greater understanding and visibility of what is happening in some of the areas most prone to leaks. By installing these devices we will help our leakage technicians save millions of litres of water being wasted which will improve our water sustainability and reduce roadwork impact on customers.”

The loggers work by listening continuously to the flow of the water through a pipe. If any variants in noise occur, an alarm is set off which alerts Yorkshire Water’s data analyst team. The data experts then analyse the noise to determine if it indicates a leak in the pipe and if so a leakage technician is sent out to find the precise location and raise work to repair the pipe within an average of 6 days. Full story.

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