HEFEI, CHINA — A six-wheeled robot travels underground in Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui Province, to detect warning signs of defects inside the pipeline network.
“It looks like a toy car at first, but it’s much more complicated than that,” said Xu Mao, the robot’s operator.
The pipeline robot, developed by Wuhan Easy-Sight Technology, is composed of four parts — crawler, camera, cable reel, and controller.
A full charge can enable the robot to work for four to five hours, covering a distance between 800 and 1,000 meters in the underground pipeline.
The robot made its debut last month in Shushan District. It will carry out inspections of the underground pipeline network stretching 150 kilometers.
“Whether the pipe is leaking, damaged or blocked. we can clearly see its interior situation through high-definition cameras embedded in the robot,” said Qi Chuanshuai from the provincial construction engineering and testing institute, a partner of the pipeline robot project.
The real-time data including video images of the pipe will be uploaded and displayed on a computer.
“If we find any problems, we stop the robot and record the flaws,” Xu said. “We report the defects to local government, who will arrange the repair and maintenance as soon as possible.”
With the rapid development of cities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage underground pipelines. Among all the difficulties, detecting flaws in the sewage and rainwater pipelines come first.
Many other cities such as Wuhan, Nanjing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai are using the robots to patrol their pipelines, the robot’s developer said.
Equipped with environmental detection sensors, the robots can monitor temperature and humidity, noxious gases, oxygen levels and smoke density, while providing illumination in real time.
“Compared with human workers, robots are able to enter smaller pipes and are immune to poisonous gases in sewage pipes,” said Ge Shengli from Shushan District’s city management company.
“No digging is required and there is no need to interrupt traffic,” Ge added.