Scotland Inspecting Sewers with Drone, Laser Tech


Utility company Scottish Water is adopting the use of “state-of-the-art” drones and lasers to improve Scotland’s sewers and reduce its carbon emissions.

The company notes that many of its sewers, with some dating back to the Victorian era, have been difficult to access. By deploying these methods, crews are able to see parts of the network that traditional surveying methods can’t reach.

About the Drones, LiDAR

Partnering with Scottish Water, Caledonia Water Alliance, civil engineering trenchless specialist Environmental Techniques and drone manufacturer Good Friday Robotics first used the technology together in July on a large brick sewer in Bath Street in the Glasgow city center. It has also been rolled out in other locations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and some rural areas.

According to the company’s release, using these new techniques will allow them to assess the sewers’ condition more accurately, making key decisions about investment in maintenance or rehabilitation work to improve them. This is then anticipated to make the sewers more resilient, improve service to customers and reduce the risk of leaks, collapses and environmental pollution.

To accomplish this, two operatives utilize drone and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanning and measurement systems. This method replaces teams of up to 15 workers, keeping them out of challenging and dangerous underground conditions.

The LiDAR is a laser scanning tool that measures distances, with the associated software creating an accurate computerized 3D point field output that can be viewed on screen. The drone carries this tool and camera onboard as a worker pilots the drone into the pipe for visual inspection and LiDAR measurement.

For the inspections, workers seek to identify issues such as cracks, holes, partial collapses, infiltration and root ingress. The outputs are then manually reviewed by operators to spot and code the defects. The company reports that the systems provide substantially better video quality, defect confirmation and location accuracy compared to traditional techniques.

Additionally, the drones were adapted specifically for sewers. Made from carbon fiber, the weight was reduced and battery life can be extended.

Scottish Water reports that these techniques will also reduce carbon emissions from sewer surveys by as much as 80%, helping the company towards its target of reaching Net Zero Carbon emissions by 2040. Workers will be redeployed to other tasks to fully utilize their skills when not completing inspection surveys.

For the inspections, workers seek to identify issues such as cracks, holes, partial collapses, infiltration and root ingress.

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

“We want to improve the accuracy of our surveys and, for safety reasons, we want to reduce the number of workers needed to carry out survey work inside sewers. The drone does both and they 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 reduction in the number of workers involved, a large number of site vans and vehicle deliveries are not required and so carbon emissions are reduced.”

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


Tagged categories: Carbon footprint; Drones; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Emissions; EU; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; Inspection equipment; Pipes; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Safety; Sewer systems; Technology; Water/Wastewater

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