The need for water companies to dig up roads in order to investigate leaking pipes may soon become a thing of the past. This is thanks to the invention of pipebots, which are currently being developed by engineers at Sheffield University. Pipebots are tiny autonomous robots that have been developed to not only patrol underground pipes checking for leaks, but also assess the structural integrity of each pipe. If a pipebot finds areas it judges are about to develop a fault, it can then report back to engineers. Pipebots will work in clean water pipes, sewage pipes and gas pipes.
Each pipebot is equipped with sensors, a camera, lights and microphone but is still tiny enough to travel through the clean water system without interfering with the water flow. Pipebots are a lot smaller than the tethered inspection bots that are currently in use. Their autonomy also means that they can be deployed in some of the most inaccessible environments.
The aim is to reduce costly and disruptive roadworks, and delays caused by the need for utility companies to dig up the roads during leak repairs. If water companies don't have a precise location for a leak, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where it is, which can lead to engineers having to uncover large areas of piping.
Despite water leaks being at their lowest level ever, we are still losing three billion litres of water a day through underground leaks. Therefore finding and fixing every leak is a priority for water companies. But with the UK water network having around a million kilometres of pipeline, this is no easy task. And the smaller the leak, the more difficult it is to locate, which is why pipebots will be so useful. Pipebots can transmit the exact location of a leak to engineers, reducing the time, disruption and expense involved in finding and repairing that leak. It is even possible that small leaks will be fixable with sealants, meaning there would no longer be a need to dig up roads and pavements at all.
The pipebots will collect continuous data about the state of the infrastructure, hopefully making long-term leakage a thing of the past. Scientists hope the pipebots will be fully operational within five years.
If you think you have a leak on your premises but need help identifying its location, Castle Water can help.
For more information on identifying and repairing water leaks, read our Leak Assistance guide here.
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