Spot the robot dog could change how we perform surveys

(News release National Highways:) London, 13 February 2024 - Together with ground engineering specialists BAM Ritchies and Aecom , we're trialling Boston Dynamics' robot dog Spot across a number of South West locations.

We're using Spot's dog’s eye view to capture information in difficult-to-get-to locations on our network, such as:

  • steep banks
  • culverts
  • under bridges and other structures

The innovative tool gives us a safer, cost-effective alternative to human inspectors in areas that are hard or dangerous to reach. This helps us:

  • cut the time our people are put at risk
  • reduce the need for costly and disruptive traffic management
Spot the robot dog could change how we perform surveys

Alongside BAM Ritchies and AECOM, we're working together to make this innovation part of our working practices. We're expecting this remote technology to give more detailed results than conventional techniques.

Last summer, BAM and AECOM teams put Spot through it's paces at our Moreton-in-Marsh development centre. Spot's capabilities were tested over a number of highways settings. These included different ground conditions and on earthworks of various slopes, heights and materials.

Live trials on our road network should give us an even better idea of the system's capabilities. Spot's first live trial was alongside the M5 in Somerset. We'll be on the lookout more test survey opportunities throughout the year.

Guy Swains, Engineering Manager in our South West Geotechnical team, said: ‘The initial, ‘proof of concept’ testing has been encouraging and we’re now live trialling the robotic tool with a view to utilising it via our contractors in future survey work, particularly in locations which present challenges for our traditional methods. As part of an ongoing exploration, Spot’s capabilities will be tested over a variety of terrains and environments and in differing weather and ground conditions. The data from the trials will also be captured and analysed and dependent on results, hopefully we’ll be able to measure an improvement in safety methods and efficiencies and employ the technology in our future work.’

Matt Ewing, BAM Ritchies’ Business Development Manager, said: ‘Technology can keep our people safe and repeatedly capture high quality data, and having Spot undertake these trials demonstrates capability and evidence for further trials while making efficiencies in the delivery of work today. It’s about finding the right applications, and the team is focused on realising Spot’s potential.’

AECOM have worked alongside BAM Ritchies and ourselves to run robust trials, making sure they accurately reflect:

  • the constraints we work under
  • our operational needs
  • the geotechnical inspection requirements we work to

James Codd, AECOM’s Associate Director of Ground Engineering, said: ‘It’s a significant step, and could complement the existing geotechnical asset management and inspection processes, to improve the safety of inspectors and reduce the impact of their activities on people’s journeys. We are working closely with the teams and really believe there could be a permanent place for Spot in the geotechnical asset management toolkit.’

Click here for the original news release.

Spot the robot dog could change how we perform surveys

Putting Spot through its paces: at our Moreton-in-Marsh development centre ...

Spot the robot dog could change how we perform surveys

... and on site in Somerset