Mini robots will be deployed along water pipes to spot mains leaks before they happen in new trial
- Scientists are developing ‘pipebots’ to find cracks and weaknesses in pipes
- The bots are small, mobile robots with cameras for eyes and all-terrain legs
- The devices are being tested at the University of Sheffield’s research centre
Mini robots are to patrol water pipe networks in an attempt to stop three billion litres being lost to leaks every day.
Scientists are developing ‘pipebots’ – small, mobile robots with cameras for eyes and all-terrain legs – to find cracks and weaknesses in pipes before they develop into leaks. The devices are being tested at the University of Sheffield’s integrated civil and infrastructure research centre, with the aim of deploying them within five years.
Some firms already use tethered robots to investigate pipes. But most of the network is inaccessible without digging – a problem the tiny machines are designed to circumvent.
‘Companies only respond reactively to faults at the moment,’ said Professor Kirill Horoshenkov.
The devices are being tested at the University of Sheffield (pictured) with the aim of deploying them within five years
‘We need to have the presence of robots so they can continuously collect data before the onset of faults. They move along the pipe, taking pictures and they have a microphone to listen to the pipe.’
Around three billion litres of water are lost through leaks in England and Wales daily, according to regulator Ofwat.
They claim maintaining the network will be ‘impossible’ without robotics.
The issue of wasted water came to the fore earlier this year during the summer drought.
According to Water UK, three companies – South East Water, South West Water, and Yorkshire Water – still have localised hosepipe bans in place.
Ofwat estimates 20 per cent of customers struggle to pay their water bill.