Today digging tunnels is slow – as slow as a snail – but this new method makes it exponentially faster and cheaper opening up all manner of possibilities.


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So far we’ve seen Google invest in hypersonic tunnelling systems, and Elon Musk launch the Boring Co, but now British technology company, hyperTunnel has just unveiled the world’s first tunnel constructed entirely by robots as part of an ongoing project for Network Rail. The underground structure was built at hyperTunnel’s R&D facility in the North Hampshire Downs using a new revolutionary automated construction method.


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First, the new method uses swarms of underground autonomous robots to construct an underground grid from which they deploy sensors into the surrounding geology. The data is then used to create an accurate digital twin of the site, then the robots 3D print the tunnel shell in situ. Once the shell is complete excavators then remove the material from the new tunnel and voila – one tunnel.

Not only does this process let the company build tunnels multiple times faster than any other technique we have today at half the cost but it also removes the need for human workers to enter the structure during construction which could also significantly improve safety for the tunnelling industry.


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Steve Jordan, Co-CEO and Co-founder of hyperTunnel, said: “To unveil our first large scale demonstration tunnel is a big step, not only for hyperTunnel, but for the tunnelling and construction industries which are eagerly anticipating the readiness of our approach to use, as appropriate, in their global projects. While using robots exclusively to build underground structures is dramatically different, the contributing technologies, such as digital twins, robotics, 3D printing and digital underground surveying, supported by AI and VR, are all well-proven in other industries. In fact, the hyperTunnel in-situ method is all about de-risking construction projects.”


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The Network Rail project has been demonstrating the hyperTunnel process and exploring the technologies that could enable low-disruption tunnel repairs for the UK’s regional railway infrastructure.

As part of this project, the first 6 metre long and 2 metre high and wide Peak XV pedestrian scale tunnel was revealed at the British Tunnelling Society Conference & Exhibition in London last week.

David Castlo, Network Technical Head (Mining and Tunnels) at Network Rail, said: “Our large portfolio of Victorian tunnels requires increasing levels of work to meet the needs of the railway network. However, we want to reduce the level of disruption to our passengers so we are constantly searching for new approaches to enlarging or repairing tunnels that reduce the length of time a tunnel will be closed to trains. Peak XV moves us a step closer to that goal and, crucially, with a method that reduces workforce safety risk.”

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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