Pilot project launched to help gritting teams

Highway maintenance teams will be able to make better gritting decisions based on local weather conditions thanks to the launch of a pilot project in Hampshire.

Weather forecasts are usually based on relatively large geographic areas where road surface temperatures vary greatly. This pilot project, however, senses localised road surface temperatures and weather measured specifically on gritting routes, enabling winter service teams to make better informed decisions.

Amey has teamed up with Mayflower Smart Control, who provide a street lighting control system in the county, and Wintersense (University of Birmingham), who provide an ‘Internet of Things’ approach to sensing road surface temperatures, to launch the initiative.

Professor Lee Chapman from the University of Birmingham said “The potential of this for the winter road maintenance sector is transformative and will seriously challenge the traditional methods of measuring, forecasting and decision making that have broadly remained untouched for decades.”

Amey has overseen the installation of 10 sensors onto a priority one gritting route in the Winchester area, as well as five new weather stations attached to street lighting columns that use the Mayflower Smart Control street lighting control network to communicate with analysis platforms.

Using lithium battery technology, the Wintersense devices use infrared to read the road surface temperature and then use an innovative mix of communication technologies, including state-of-the-art wide area networks and WiFi to connect to the street lighting network and report data in real-time via a cloud system.

The weather stations then provide additional information about air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall and humidity.

With this new source of data, Amey’s Hampshire highways maintenance services can verify the weather forecasts as well as monitor road conditions in real time and base their decisions on more accurate local data.

It is anticipated that this new approach could not only save the council money but also reduce the local authority’s carbon footprint, through less running of the gritting lorries.

Rick Robinson, Amey’s director of technology, said: “This is an exciting innovation project which will enable Hampshire County Council to make much better use of their resources. We’ve been gritting roads in the UK using the same approach for many years but this new approach could lead to a radical overhaul of how we approach the problem of when to grit a road.”

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