Following trials earlier this year, Severn Trent is working with US-based WatchTower Robotics on creating and trialling a UK-specific leak-finding robot in the company’s pipes.
Created by Dr You Wu, who got his PhD from MIT this year, the robot, called Lighthouse, has now been named as a national winner of the James Dyson Award, which celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers.
The robot looks a little like a badminton shuttlecock, is very flexible and ‘fills’ pipes, allowing it to travel with the flow of the water, logging its position and leak information as it goes. The data can be retrieved wirelessly and a ‘map’ of leaks can be produced before the robot is fished out using a net or flushed out of a hydrant.
Bob Stear, Deputy Chief Engineer at Severn Trent, said: “We hosted You and his robot earlier this year and we were very excited about its potential so we’re now looking at the best way forward.
“We’re working closely with him on a number of initiatives, including looking at a UK-specific model, and seeing whether we can partner with other, overseas, water companies in a much-extended trial.
“Our initial aim is to get a dozen or so trial robots that we can hand out to our engineers in real world situations to see how they perform. It’s incredibly exciting and could be a real game changer when it comes to tackling leakage.”
Dr Wu said: “Severn Trent offered a valuable opportunity to pilot the new leak detection robot in the UK earlier this year. WatchTower is looking forward to expanding the pilot programme with Severn Trent and to together implement this more effective leak finding and prevention solution in the UK. Eventually, we want to make water distribution systems in the UK more efficient and sustainable.”