These robots travel through underground pipes to help repair blockages

These robots travel through underground pipes to help repair blockages

Conventional methods of maintaining and repairing such pipes are not only expensive, but can be annoying, dirty (and sometimes also dangerous), which causes a lot of inconvenience. But what if, in the future, we could use microbots to change all of this?

A team of researchers in the UK is developing just that. little robots calledpipeIt can work in underground pipe networks – in both clean water and sewage.

in New Scientist LiveAnd the Interesting geometry (IE) I spoke with Andy Blitt, a robotics software technician at the University of Leeds, UK

The idea is to drop a small garage full of “Pipebots” into the maintenance pit, and put the lid back on

Burger Robots: Conceptual (earlier) models of tube robots with “sesame bun” tops

“The idea is to be able to explore an interesting area with a truck that flips over one morning at the manhole cover, descends into a small garage full of robots, and then puts the cover back on. After about three weeks or a week later, the truck will come back to collect all the data that collected,” Andy Blitt explained in another meaning.

Given the appearance of a “sesame seed bun,” the team called the conceptual robots “burger robots.” These are robots [conceptual models] very small. But they’re nice, and people love them,” Blitt said.

Blight and the team explained that conceptual robots were part of the animation produced early in the project — it never looked like this. The current prototypes, known as “Joey”, are what they’re working on.

The primary responsibilities of pipe robots include locating pipes (they are not always where they appear on diagrams) and locating potential pipe faults.

There are two main types of obstruction. One is temporary, like “fatberg” which is a term used to describe when an item like a diaper is washed, becomes stuck, and then fat builds up around it, clogging the tube.

The second type indicates a more serious blockage, which leads to the collapse of the tubes. For example, as the root of a tree grows through it.

Like keyhole surgery, this approach offers an alternative to “unlocking everything”

These robots travel through underground pipes to help repair blockages

Pipebots can accurately identify nature and location obstacles

Blight explained, “[With this information] A person can then say, “This blockage is kind of fat, two meters from this hole.” The team will then come out with a high pressure hose, closer to the problem.”

However, if it’s a broken pipe that needs fixing, Blight revealed that using pipe robots can cut down on some of the costly hassles associated with digging a series of trenches. Alternatively, a single tube robot may be sent from either end of the damaged area to determine its size. Then a crew is sent in charge of repairing the tube.

“So it’s more like keyhole surgery – rather than opening the whole thing up. That’s one of the main benefits, of course. Precise positioning. Digging fewer roads is less annoying for everyone,” Blitt said. However, how exactly do pipe robots work?

The robots will operate autonomously – current acoustic models can pinpoint with an accuracy of 2cm

To navigate the tubes, the robots will operate independently – thanks to a variety of sensors on board. This will include the use of computer vision as well as a built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetic field sensor.

“We have an audio model that we use for audio testing [acoustic Pipebot] into a tube to find sound waves to locate the blockage,” the team discovered that acoustics can also map tubes precisely to 2 centimeters.

After mapping the pipes, the pipe bots get the data, for example, on an SD (Secure Digital) card. This information may be transmitted wirelessly from the client to the server, where artificial intelligence (AI) processing can identify problems with the pipe.

Pipebots have a segment dedicated to communication and another segment for everything else

Highlighted by Blight, the tube robots feature a red light that, when turned off, indicates the need to charge with a standard USB plug. A 10-minute charge usually provides half an hour of work when using a dedicated 2-amp device. However, Blight explained that the research team is aiming for three hours.

There’s a chip dedicated to connectivity and another chip for everything else. Pipebot’s top bracket handles all of the video, and the plan is that on the way back, this will be closed off with other power-saving features.

From the point of appointment, the tubes are straightforward for mapping—it took us a while to realize that, but we got there in the end,” added Blight. On the return trip, the tube robot doesn’t need to know where it’s going because it has photos taken.

Plait explained that given that the robots would only be able to move three to four meters before losing a WIFI connection, this ability to go out “on their own” would play a vital role in the project’s success.

Reducing the size of the pipe robots to 2 cm will be a difficult task

These robots travel through underground pipes to help repair blockages

Pipebots will need to demonstrate durability in various terrains

One challenge is designing pipe robots for durability across various terrains.

Current prototypes of tube robots are about 10 centimeters long, five centimeters wide, and seven centimeters high. “The wheels we have right now are very small. We’ll need something around 50mm in length for the robots to climb. This will be the next version,” Blit revealed.

The team also wants to reduce the size of the tube robots to about two centimeters. However, Blight admits that this will be a complex task.

How do you make something? [this small] Which will last long enough to do something useful with the right amount of processing power on the board? ”

The three-ribbed legs enable tube robots to climb over higher obstacles

These robots travel through underground pipes to help repair blockages

Robots are built with ‘legs’ instead of wheels

In nature – a giant cockroach can be used as an analogy. Now, think about what it can do, and how long it lasts between feedings. In general, most little things don’t last long – one factor is that she needs to nurse regularly. “For us, how can we feed the robot regularly?” Blit explained.

Furthermore, how do you make the leg work? Turns out the team had already thought about this by choosing triangular legs rather than wheels for the tube robots, enabling them to climb obstacles higher than wheels. “But we have to do [the legs] Much bigger because we need to get more than 15mm from objects and obstacles,” Blight explained.

Next steps include the ability of piping robots to determine piping conditions prior to marketing

The project has been running for nearly three and a half years, having been awarded a five-year grant. “So we have about a year and a half left. The next stage involves demonstrating the power of tube-in-tube robots. We hope to send them down in about 20 years,” Blitt said.

After demonstrating this to the industry, the team hopes to get another batch of funding to start doing more research, particularly into tube conditions. This includes the ability of pipe robots to discern if there is a hollow area behind the pipe where water has leaked and tools have corroded.

“Once that is done, we will probably try to produce the tube robots in small runs as a trial stage,” Plait added.

In the future, robots will be able to communicate with each other – making them collaborative

These robots travel through underground pipes to help repair blockages

The idea is that Pipebots will communicate with each other

The team also talked about making a switch so the bots can communicate with each other – making them collaborative. Currently, they are all a bit random. However, the team eventually intends to drop three to four tube robots into a tube and have each go off to a different side of it.

Blight described this as “they’ll all come back to share information, they might say ‘there’s more to do,’ take a little bit longer and then come back to recharge.”

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