The University of Southampton

Mapping the underworld

Published: 5 February 2013

Researchers in ECS are among a team from the University of Southampton involved in a national project that is transforming the way gas, electric, water and telecommunications pipes and cables are laid, repaired and replaced in the UK.

Academics from the Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory, and Electronics and Electrical Engineering, join a team from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), to work with colleagues from the Universities of Birmingham, Bath, Leeds and Sheffield on the Mapping the Underworld project.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-funded scheme is looking to develop a multi-sensor platform that can locate, map in 3-D and record the position of all buried utility assets without excavation.

Currently it is estimated four million holes are dug each year to lay, repair or remove buried pipes and cables, however, if utility companies are not certain where they are, excavations can result in serious problems such as burst water mains and major disruption to services.

The Mapping the Underworld project aims to come up with new ways to accurately track the exact location of buried pipes and cables using ground penetrating radar, low frequency electro magnetics, vibro-acoustics and magnetic field technologies.

The multi-disciplinary research has already received interest from a number of utility companies and is coming to the end of its second four year phase. The team, led by Professor Chris Rogers from the University of Birmingham, now hopes to secure further funding to extend their work to assess the condition of buried pipes and cables so that utility companies will know which may need replacing without digging them up.

For more information on Mapping the Underworld go to

Articles that may also interest you

Share this article FacebookTwitterWeibo