Robots are great for going where humans can’t, and the cramped confines of municipal water pipes are the perfect example. A new initiative is working on building robots that can access and repair aging water pipes from the inside.
Old pipes are a pressing issue for many cities. The American Society of Civil Engineers which rates the quality of city infrastructure, including water works, estimates that 6 billion gallons of clean drinking water disappears each day, mostly due to old, leaky pipes and mains. That’s enough water to supply all the residents of California for a year.
An engineering research team at the University of California, Irvine are building a robot that can travel along water pipes and repair them from the inside. (Credit: UC Irvine)
"This is a nationwide emergency," said Maria Feng, civil & environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Irvine. "Some pipelines are nearly 100 years old, and the problem is very serious, especially in urban areas, where it’s difficult to access leaking and burst pipes."