Infrared drones can detect leaks in desert pipelines

In Damage Assessment, Editor's Choice, Environment, Inspection, Pipeline, Rail, Bridge & Infrastructure Inspection, Research & Development by Hannah PaullLeave a Comment

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Drones equipped with infrared cameras could soon be used to help detect leakages in underground water pipes in the desert, following new research.

The study aims to prevent water loss using infrared technology to identify large-scale leaks that are invisible to the naked eye.

It specifically hopes to reduce the loss of water in arid countries where water is transported over large distances.

The study is led by Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh, from the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment at Nottingham Trent University.

Short distances are covered using an infrared camera attached to a quadcopter drone. However larger distances, require the technology to be attached to an inflated zeppelin anchored to the back of a vehicle driven along the pipeline routes.

Professor Al-Habaibeh, Professor of Intelligent Engineering Systems, said: “Water is one of the most precious commodities around the world, but significant quantities are lost on a daily basis through leaking and broken pipes.

“What we are proposing is a non-contact and high-speed system that can be used remotely to detect changes in humidity over vast areas of desert.”

The research demonstrates that both high and low resolution infrared cameras are capable of detecting a change in sand temperature from height. This typically occurs when leaked water evaporates from the surface.

GPS technology is then able to pinpoint exactly from where the leak is coming.

The team created a simulation model of the Great Man-Made River in Libya to use for trials.

The research was developed by postgraduate researcher at the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, Bubaker Shakmak.

Mr Shakmak said: “The early detection of leaks would enable water providers in arid countries like Libya to improve their operational efficiency, reduce the potential for the contamination of water and extend the life of facilities.

“This is a non-destructive technology which would provide a cost-effective way of monitoring major pipelines to help avert the large-scale loss of treated and consumable water.”

The research was presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference in Jordan.


Source: Nottingham Trent University

Image credit: Moyan Brenn

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