Wall-climbing robots, acoustic sensors and laser technology are among the pioneering ideas which could help write off graffiti from alongside National Highways roads in the future.
National Highways is on a mission to tackle the blight of graffiti by finding new products to remove graffiti but also potential solutions that will prevent the vandalism appearing in the first place.
A competition was launched to harvest innovative and modern solutions to the problem that continues to plague the road network.
Graffiti on bridges and next to roads can be distracting for drivers and the clean-up often requires lane or road closures, disrupting traffic. And it is costly – up to £10,000 to remove one instance of graffiti.
National Highways, formerly Highways England, has launched the competition with partners Kier and Connected Places Catapult to identify new solutions for dealing with graffiti.
More than a dozen companies submitted their concepts and products and the five most promising entries have now been announced. These winning ideas will each get up to £30,000 to spend taking their products forward.
National Highways Head of Innovation Annette Pass said:
The five winning ideas from the competition are:
Audio sensors will detect the application of graffiti in order to alert authorities and trigger audio and visual deterrents.
AI software will analyse behaviour to detect vandals at graffiti hotspots and then deterrents such as alarms and lights can be activated.
Wall-climbing robotics will be used to apply graffiti preventative paints, reducing the risk of such hazards as working at heights for the workforce.
This innovation will use lasers to remove graffiti from surfaces whilst preventing additional damage to the finish of surface coatings and films.
Nano Eco Group
A 3D chemical coating to prevent the adhesion of graffiti to a variety of surfaces and films.
Each of the winners will use the money to develop their idea and produce a feasibility study for National Highways which will then decide the most promising products to take forward for use on the road network.
Kier Head of Innovation Tom Tideswell said:
Connected Places Catapult Technical Director Paul Bate said:
The competition follows a recent trial of new solutions that took place over two days at an off-road site at Gravelly Hill Interchange – more commonly known as Spaghetti Junction – in Birmingham.
Three products or methods were tested to help identify those that most successfully remove graffiti quickly and safely whilst being eco-friendly. And there were another three trialled that go beyond coatings traditionally used to prevent graffiti appearing.
The aim of the trials was to evaluate the performance of newly identified products and increase the range of solutions available for use on the road network.
The cost of both initiatives has been met through the Innovation and Modernisation Designated Fund. This is a ringfenced National Highways fund dedicated to the exploration and adoption of modern and innovative working practices.