Innovative sensor suites and intelligent robotics for condition assessment of concrete sewers

This project develops novel sensing and robotic toolkits that assess the condition of concrete sewerage pipes. The technology provides Sydney Water with crucial data used to inform renewal methods and reduce negative environmental, health and economic impacts.

Artificial intelligence

Construction & asset management

Data science

Industry 4.0

Infrastructure, utilities & transport

Robotics and automation

Wireless communications & Internet of Things

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Duration

3 years

Academic team

Professor Sarath Kodagoda

Lab

Engagement model

Funding

Sydney Water

Future applications

Pipe repair

Quality assurance of sewer coatings and water pipe liners

Challenge

The length of water and wastewater piping in Australia can circle the globe more than six times and 70% of it is underground. Sydney Water estimates it spends $40 million annually rehabilitating sewers, relying on manual inspection to identify damage or areas for concern with staff required to enter the sewers for a visual inspection. Replacing pipes that are approaching the end of their life is both costly and disruptive to the community. Sydney Water requires a safe and reliable method of detecting water pipe defects before critical failure in order to apply fit for purpose intervention.

 

Solution

The UTS Tech Lab team developed a robotic system that enters the sewer through a 600mm diameter manhole, then expands to either the 1.5 or 2.5m diameter of the pipe, allowing for safe, remote inspection in confined spaces.

The robots are equipped with laser sensing and profiling technologies that identify corrosion levels and other defects in concrete sewer pipes. Collection of this data, along with the application of machine learning, allows Sydney Water to make timely decisions about renewal methods, saving costs and preventing harm to the economy, health and environment.

Information gathered by the robots can reduce out-of-service times and the excavation work that inconveniences road users. It can also extend pipe life by pinpointing faults before they become problems.

The work of the iPipes team has been recognised with a National Research Innovation Award presented at the Australian Water Association’s 2020 Australian Water Awards.

UTS Tech Lab is also collaborating with universities and industry to develop world-first robots that will monitor challenging ocean outfalls.