Drones to be flown into Aberdeen sewage network

Scottish Water says the drones will effectively replace employees, who often have to endure challenging and dangerous conditions and will bring more accurate surveys to the table.

Scottish Water says the drones will effectively replace employees, who often have to endure challenging and dangerous conditions and will bring more accurate surveys to the table.

Drones will be deployed into Aberdeen’s sewer network to check for faults. Scottish Water is trialling a technology that eliminates the risks of putting workers underground.

The government agency says the technology effectively replaces employees. They often have to endure ‘challenging and dangerous conditions’ and will bring more accurate surveys to the table.

A combination of high-tech drones and laser technology adapted for use in the wastewater sector is being drafted in by the utility to probe potential problems in the 33,000-mile nationwide network that traditional surveying methods cannot reach, reports the Herald.

The technology was used together for the first time on a large brick sewer in Bath Street in Glasgow two months ago. It is set to be rolled out and used in the Granite City, Edinburgh and rural areas as well as other locations in Glasgow.

Scottish Water proud of drone investment

Scottish Water says the new techniques will enable it to assess the sewers’ condition more accurately. It will help make critical decisions about investment in maintenance or rehabilitation work to improve them.

This will make the sewers more resilient, improve customer service and reduce the risk of leaks, collapses and environmental pollution.

The utility giant said placing teams of up to 15 workers with just two operatives using a drone and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanning and measurement techniques would reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80 per cent. It will help Scottish Water towards its target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The more accurate surveys aim to cut the cost of repairs and maintenance. It also reduces the risk of flooding and pollution, improves the utility’s ability to target investment and enhances workers’ safety.

Many of the sewers have previously been difficult to access. Much more of the network is now reachable following the collaboration between Scottish Water, Caledonia Water Alliance (CWA), civil engineering trenchless specialist Environmental Techniques and drone manufacturer Good Friday Robotics.

Sewer inspections seek to identify issues such as cracks, holes, partial collapses, infiltration, and root ingress. They are needed to enable Scottish Water to make investment decisions. The earlier any repairs and maintenance work is carried out, the lower the costs are to the company.

Drones result of partnership

Environmental Techniques has developed drones and associated software with CWA and Good Friday Robotics. The drones and LiDAR provide substantially better video quality, defect confirmation and location accuracy than traditional techniques.

The tool measures distances. The associated software creates an accurate computerised 3D point field output that can be viewed on-screen. The drone carries the LiDAR and camera onboard as it flies inside the pipe.

A worker controls or pilots the drone as it flies along the pipe. It uses video for visual inspection and LiDAR for measurement. Operators manually review the outputs to spot and code the defects.

The drones were explicitly adapted for sewers. They are made of carbon fibre to reduce their weight and extend battery life.

Excitement around drones

Iain Jones, Risk and Life Cycle Planning Manager at Scottish Water, said: “This is the first time we’ve used drones adapted for sewers and LiDAR together for sewer surveys. We are excited about it.

“We want to improve the accuracy of our surveys. For safety reasons, we want to reduce the number of workers needed to carry out survey work inside sewers. The drone does both. It will also help us in our aim to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

“Factors such as depth, flows and debris can significantly slow down a worker entry survey in a way that does not affect the drones. Because of the reduced number of workers, many site vans and vehicle deliveries are not required, so carbon emissions are reduced.”

Shauna Herron, Director of Environmental Techniques, added: “We’re delighted to be working with Scottish Water, CWA and Good Friday Robotics on adapting these cutting-edge technologies to help maintain and improve the network of sewers. The fact that it will also improve workers’ safety and reduce carbon emissions is really important.”

The Pipeline Industries Guild in July awarded the Utility Pipeline Technology Award 2022 to Environmental Techniques, Caledonia Water Alliance, Good Friday Robotics and Scottish Water for their collaborative work on what was called Drone Project Elida – adapting drones for advanced, safer sewer surveys.

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