Phase I will explore and identify existing technologies that are capable of, or can be adapted to, the robotic installation of underground utilities. Similarly, phase I will also examine current and emerging subsurface utility sensing and mapping technology to identify the most applicable technique(s) to exploit for use with a future automated subsurface utility relocation system. Lastly, this phase will determine the feasibility of integrating the identified subsurface sensing/mapping methods with the robotic technology to form a complete, automated subsurface utility relocation system.
The desired outcome of the proposed research is a system that can robotically relocate existing overhead utilities to the subsurface in highway and road rights-of-way. The system should be accurate and precise enough to place utilities in complex subsurface environments such as those found in urban corridors. The robotic installation system will depend on an accurate three-dimensional model of the subsurface that is derived from state-of-the-art remote sensing technology combined with existing information about buried utilities.