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.
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 detect parameters for pipe performance, such as wall thickness, and identify corrosion levels and other weaknesses. Collection of this data, along with the application of machine learning, enables Sydney Water to predict pipe failure and make timely, targeted and cost-effective decisions about renewal methods.
The use of robotic tools will allow Sydney Water to reduce renewal costs by about 20% and limit out-of-service time and excavation work. 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.
Professor Sarath Kodagoda
R&D as a service
Quality assurance of sewer coatings and water pipe liners