InDePTH - Intelligent Drones for Ports and Highways Technology


Our vision for the future of UK infrastructure encompasses fleets of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) powered by renewable energy to deliver more efficient applications and processes in high cost areas such as search and rescue and highway maintenance, whilst reducing the economic impact currently caused by interruptions such as road closures. Additionally, using UAS in such operations can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. This vision will be delivered by 2025 at scale.

The InDePTH project will investigate the use of autonomous drones to deliver this vision. The aircraft will be used to regularly survey wide infrastructure estates, including ports and highways, to create digital models and obtain detailed insight of these dynamic environments. InDePTH will utilise onboard sensing, data and image processing equipment to autonomous drones, currently available as drone-in-a-box (DIAB) solutions.

Current DIAB offerings include mission-tailored sensing equipment and minimal human input and supervision but lack end-to-end and real-time data analytics integration. DIAB solutions today require lengthy manual data offloading after missions, making real-time analytics impossible. Another constraint of current DIAB solutions is that data offloading is typically not fully integrated with analytics software, requiring the use of cloud-based data lakes.

The project aims at fast-tracking data transport while providing enhanced AI analytics near real-time. InDePTH will augment the drone data analytics using state-of-the-art machine learning (ML) algorithms developed by RoboK, creating optimised image processing aiming at modelling environments to a 3D digital twin. BT will provide secure and fast data transport equipment by exploring the use of fast and reliable 5G and fibre links to transmit DIAB data with low latency.

Three demonstrators will be developed to support critical use cases for Associated British Ports (ABP) and Kier Highways. Port and highway environments change rapidly due to constant movement of people ,vehicles and goods. For ports, two key use cases are identified: InDePTH will investigate the use of UAS to improve inventory management for ABP ports, focusing on vehicle inventory; furthermore, ABP will use drones in their off-shore surveillance and maritime operations in the second project demonstrator. Thirdly, in the highways area, InDePTH will look at deploying UAS to continuously assess the ground surface quality of highways, for Kier.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer



ROBOK LIMITED £222,706 £ 155,894
KIER HIGHWAYS LIMITED £96,467 £ 48,234
HEROTECH8 LTD £328,491 £ 229,944


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