Monday, April 16th, 2012
An autonomous grit-blasting system for steel bridge maintenance developed at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in partnership with the  Roads and Maritime Services, NSW, Australia (RMS) will be promoted by UniQuest at the 2012 World Steel Bridge Symposium.

Held in Dallas, Texas, from 18-20 April, the annual event attracts more than 3,500 steel bridge asset owners, engineers, fabricators and contractors from the United States and around the world.

UTS commercialisation partner UniQuest is working closely with the UTS research team from the Centre for Autonomous Systems and RMS to develop the SABRE™ technology as a commercial venture in Australia and overseas.

UniQuest Manager of Innovation & Commercial Development at UTS, Martin Lloyd, said the SABRE™ system is the outcome of a six-year research partnership between UTS and RMS, supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

“It’s the first system of its kind capable of autonomously sensing and mapping a steel bridge environment, and then planning a suitable collision-free grit-blasting pathway, all with the human operation outside of the blasting zone” said Mr Lloyd.

“Steel bridges are a major part of any city or region’s infrastructure, but in order to remain functional they need regular maintenance. Removing old paint and rust requires heavy duty grit-blasting, which is a fatiguing and potentially hazardous task for workers. SABRE™ has been developed as a sophisticated tool to reduce exposure risks for the grit-blasting operators,” Mr Lloyd explained.

Assisting workers to do the difficult, hazardous and laborious grit-blasting task reduces the risk of injury for workers those exposed to heavy equipment, fine dust and paint particles, and dangerous blast streams. Safety for the operator is also improved as the system can be supervised and interacted with remotely, outside of the containment area.

"RMS' attitude towards Work Health and Safety is safety first, work second. The system provides a safer working environment by reducing the time our 'suited up' operators have to spend in the grit blasting environment," said Phil Brooks, RMS Technology Development Manager.

The SABRE™ system is also able to perform work on areas that are difficult for humans to reach, such as corners, upper beams, ceilings and roofs, without additional scaffolding.

Investors and industry partners with an interest in large infrastructure maintenance are encouraged to learn more about the innovation’s potential whilst attending the Symposium.

“The SABRE™ technology is an excellent example of how collaborative research and development between universities and industry can lead to significant innovations and solutions to real-world challenges,” said UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson.

“The SABRE™ technology aims to have a significant health, safety and economic impact, and the World Steel Bridge Symposium presents a unique opportunity to promote it in the US, where there are more than 200,000 steel bridges that need regular maintenance.”

Prospective investors and industry partners not planning to attend the Symposium can still register their interest in the technology by contacting Martin Lloyd directly on +61 2 9514 2370 or

Contact Profile

UniQuest Pty Limited

Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 70 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $450 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year. UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 60+ countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.

About University of Technology, Sydney (UTS)

The University of Technology Sydney is a young university with a rapidly developing reputation as a research institution of note. UTS is a leader in collaborative, impact-driven research that provides real-world solutions for industry, business and the community. UTS is home to world-leading research centres across a range of disciplines, including applied economics, human choice behaviour and quantum computation and to researchers who pride themselves on providing practical and relevant solutions to issues of national and international importance.


Leanne Wyvill
P: +61 7 3365 4037
M: +61 409 767 199


World Steel Bridge Symposium



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