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TUBERS: Scalable, modular robotic tools for pipeline inspection and repair

The TUBERS project aims to build a cutting-edge ecosystem of robotic platforms and tools that addresses the pressing issue of being able to maintain Europe’s water distribution pipeline system, whilst it undergoes 24/7 inspection and targeted, in-situ repairs.

The European water distribution network suffers drinking water losses of up to 20% due to unknown or unattended leaks.  Recent reports also support that the USA and the Middle East are equally troubled by water losses, to the extent of 30%.  In conjunction with the wider impacts of water leakage, including the potentially devastating environmental consequences of water contamination and underground pollution, it makes it imperative to consider the role that water-pipe materials and the age of pipes contribute to water leak issues.

Traditional methods for inspection of pipes, identification of issues and subsequent repair are based on records of past breaks, reported leaks and water quality complaints from customers.  While modern methods employ pipe inspection robots, they have certain limitations such as the operational range and the high cost of ownership, and these prevent them from achieving high-level inspection coverage.

The project plans to exceed the performance of existing conventional approaches by developing and integrating three key technologies, namely a snake-like resident robot, a modular, soft robotic platform and a Decision Support System, to drastically decrease water leakages while reducing the costs of regular inspection and maintenance.  TUBERS will perform high accuracy, day and night inspection over long distances, and targeted in-situ repairs, with a novel repair deployment mechanism.

As a green initiative, TUBERS hopes to save 158GWh of energy and 79,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in a 5-year period, and bring about ground-breaking, digital transformation in scientific research, economic development, sustainability and society in Europe at large.

Visit the TUBERS website to find out more about the project.

Partners: Alsymex, Bendabl, Brabant Water, Demcon Advanced Mechatronics, Evides, Vitens and the Essex Innovation Centre.

TUBERS is funded by the European Union under the Horizon Europe programme.

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