ESA title


  • ACTIVITYDemonstration Project
  • STATUSOngoing
  • THEMATIC AREAInfrastructure & Smart Cities

Objectives of the service

Keeping roads systems in good conditions is at the base for the safety and comfort of road’s users. In many cities, in fact, several roads suffer the presence of deteriorations of different nature (cracks, potholes, voids and deformations of various types) depending on various causes, such as water infiltration, stress from heavy loads and weather-climatic effects.

The timely detection of cracks and potholes, especially the critical ones, their recording and notification on a dedicated system, are important to prevent the evolution into more serious defects, to enable an adequate maintenance mechanism aimed at guaranteeing the quality of the transport system and, above all, at the safety of road users.

MALIBU objectives

It is starting from this scenario, typical of big cities as Rome is, that MALIBU solutions rise.
The MALIBU system, however, goes beyond the mapping of roads’ asphalt conditions and, hereafter, the services portfolio is presented:

  • Mapping and monitoring of the status of integrity of the roads' asphalt and prediction of defects’ evolution. This is possible through a sensor unit installed directly on board a bus (during the demonstration phase) which, thanks to repeated daily passages on the same route, and thanks to the use of Artificial Intelligence technology and the 5G network, guarantee awareness always in line with the actual state of health of roads' pavement (Service 1).

  • Mapping the city area via SAR satellite data and, if relevant, put in connection soil movements and sinkholes phenomena with roads' defects evolution and increase (Service 2).

  • Qualitative mapping of the air quality along the streets traveled by public transport equipped with sensors, especially in the proximity of bus stops, where the major concentration of passengers is (Service 3).

Users and their needs

MALIBU is intended to provide services both to the private sector made of companies responsible for the surveillance and monitoring services, generally entrusted by Municipalities through tenders, and to Municipalities.

Users involved in the project are represented by i) AVR Group and SIPAL, two private companies responsible, among other activities, for the service of road surveillance and monitoring, and ii) ATAC, the public company dealership for a large part of the local public transport service and the management of supplementary services in the Rome city area. Each of them is interested on different services and sub-services that MALIBU can provide.

The most cogent needs expressed by the user responsible for surveillance and monitoring activities are, summarizing:

  • Awareness about the status of asphalt’s roads degradation.

  • Defects’ detection, with a special focus on potholes and cracks.

  • Severity of the detected defects and timely alerts.

  • Predictiveness of defects’ evolution for prompt interventions.

Moreover, the variety of sensor’s types installed on board the ATAC bus, that will travel daily across the urban roads, also allows to satisfy secondary types of needs, listed hereafter:

  • Extent of vehicle stress due to vibrations the bus is subjected to (caused by defects of the roads).

  • Passengers’ flow analysis at the bus stops for logistic interventions and marketing purposes.

  • Qualitative mapping of the distribution of air pollutants along bus routes and bus stops.

Besides these services, derived by the on-board sensor unit, MALIBU also offers:

  • Ground displacement service for the mapping and monitoring of slow movements and sinkholes potentially affecting road infrastructure elements.

Results collected during the demonstration phase are distributed via web platform where reports, graphs and geospatial layers can be collected and provided to end users coherently with their possibly diverse workflows.

MALIBU services, in the frame of project execution, will be offered to Italian users.

Service/ system concept

MALIBU main service offers to the market of reference a simple, scalable and replicable solution for the detection and mapping of asphalt’s defects mainly in the urban road network, through the use of i) public transportation vehicles (bus fleet) that can guarantee an extensive road coverage (as it will be demonstrated during the pilot phase), ii) inspection vehicles of private companies which, making use of public vehicles already operating on the roads, could benefit of the automation of some of the activities.

The equipment, software tools and approaches used are:

  • Sensors installed on board vehicles: high-resolution COTS video cameras, accelerometers and weather/air quality sensors for analysing possible correlation between road anomalies and meteorological conditions.

  • Multi-constellation GNSS receivers for vehicle tracking and geo-referencing of acquired data.

  • non-invasive analysis software tools of the road surface based on cutting-edge Computer Vision techniques (Deep Learning), to automate the process of detecting anomalies.

  • Descriptive, predictive and proactive data analysis tools, to provide indicators with which determine the current road surface condition.

  • Algorithms to predict the evolutions of the road defects, to suggest preventive maintenance actions on the road network.

  • Interferometric analysis tools of SAR images for the mapping and monitoring of slow ground movements.

  • 5G communication technologies, necessary to guarantee the throughput and latency necessary to support the flow of data acquired by the sensors installed on board the vehicles at the processing center and to allow the timely identification of damages requiring prompt interventions.

The picture below shows the operation approach of the MALIBU system.

MALIBU service concept


Space Added Value

The space assets used in MALIBU are Earth observation (SAR) and Navigation.

The EO space asset is at the base of the delivery of one of the three MALIBU services. Information derived by SAR data are used both as a preliminary base of knowledge in terms of awareness on the zones mainly exposed to subsidence and sinkholes phenomena, and to understand if potentially affecting roads’ integrity.

The SAT-NAV space asset, with a special focus on GPS (US) and Galileo (EU) GNSS constellation, provides its added value for the georeferencing and timely fixing of the information acquired by the on-board sensors’ units. In details for:

  • Positioning in a reference system of deteriorations/anomalies.

  • Time correlation between dataset acquired by different sensor units, e.g., accelerometers, camera, and meteorological sensor units.

  • Visualization of processed sensor data on a web GIS platform.

Current Status

Periodic calls and meetings with MALIBU end users for User Requirements refinement.

Start of the design phase.

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 05 June 2023