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Are Drones the Future of Underground Pipeline Surveying?

Traditional pipeline surveying is usually achieved with the use of a camera tractor, which runs between manholes, allowing small scale surveying through underground pipes. Another method of traditional surveying concerns manually pulling a camera backwards through a similarly small length of pipeline, with the use of a ‘fish’ pulled along on a rope.

Maintaining water pipe networks is a gargantuan ongoing challenge, and whilst camera tractor and manual ‘fishing’ methods do achieve the job, they can be cumbersome with masses of equipment – causing consequential disruption to the everyday happenings of the area being surveyed.

These methods are still the most popular amongst today’s water and sewerage companies, but trendsetters Anglian Water have made waves in Cambridge this week after conducting a survey using a drone this week. Until recently, people tended to associate drones with annoying little flying robots, or futuristic Amazon delivery methods, however, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that their uses are going to transcend into a multitude of industries.

The MSI (Multi Survey Inspection) Profiler

Using state-of-the-art initiative, the gadget – also known as a MSI Profiler –utilises floating drone technology to survey the sewers that carry used water from homes to the Cambridge Water Recycling Centre. Offering a highly-detailed analysis of corrosion and silt build-up underground, the findings will assist Anglian Water with ensuring consistently well-maintained drainage pipes.

The Benefits

Due to the decidedly less invasive nature of the drone method, water companies can take advantage of the fact that its use will reduce the necessity for manhole entries. This, in turn, will result in a decrease in traffic disruption and will work to speed up drainage renovation in general.

Designed by US firm Redzone Robotics, the MSI Profiler has already collected data for nearly three kilometres of drainage pipes beneath the streets of Cambridge, with plans to return next week and continue findings.

Aside from the reduction in public disruption and the increase in efficiency, the drone will also rule out many safety risks that arise when working with traditional surveying methods in drainage pipes.

As explained by a representative from Anglian Water, “Getting into sewers is a dangerous job and the apparatus needed above ground can require roads and footpaths to be partially closed. So, this unit also means we can get the job done more safely and with less disruption for local residents.”

What Does This Mean for the Pipeline Industry?

Given the success of this initial trial, it can be assumed that similar procedures will start appearing across the UK in the next couple of years. With drastic improvements portrayed within its fledgling development, the MSI Profiler is sure to revolutionise the water and wastage industry.

If you’re looking for new underground drainage pipes and fittings for your own business, you can find a selection of both 110mm pipes and 160mm pipes at Total Pipeline Systems, or contact us today to discover the bespoke services we offer. Who knows, tiny portable drainage pipe drones may be available to us all in the very near future!