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Pipebots: Finding Leaks Before they Start

The Future of Water Leakage Detection

Have you ever considered how much water is wasted due to leaks in the sewer systems? In Europe alone, 26% of the water supply is lost yearly because of these leaks. Luckily, scientists in the United Kingdom are developing “pipebots” — tiny robots that could save billions of liters of water annually. These pipebots have sensors and cameras that can crawl through sewer pipes and locate cracks, weak spots, or other faults. Engineers can fix the issues quickly with this technology and prevent further water loss. Let’s explore how pipebots work and how they can help preserve our precious water resources.

How do pipebots work?

The pipebots, also known as “autonomous pipe network robots,” are designed to enter sewer pipes and find any faults, cracks, or other signs of damage. These tiny robots are about 20mm wide, making them small enough to walk or swim (notice the tail) through narrow pipes. Several of these could be held in your hand.

The robots are equipped with cameras and sensors to take images and measurements of the pipe walls. The data is then transmitted to an engineer, who analyzes the information and identifies the location and severity of any faults.

The pipebots would be created en masse on a small production scale and tested thoroughly before being put into service.

What are the benefits of using pipebots?

Using pipebots has many benefits, including reduced water waste, faster repair times, and cost savings. By quickly identifying and fixing issues, engineers can prevent further damage to pipes and water loss. This technology can also save time and money by reducing the need for expensive and time-consuming methods of finding faults. Additionally, pipebots can be used in areas that are difficult to access or hazardous for human workers, improving safety and reducing the risk of injury.

Where are pipebots currently being tested?

Currently, tests are underway to perfect the technology at the University of Sheffield. The university’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering is leading the project, part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The goal is to develop a flexible, low-cost, and efficient system for European sewer networks. Researchers are also exploring ways to use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the analysis of pipebot data, making it easier and faster to identify faults.

What is the future of pipebots?

The future looks bright for pipebots as their use becomes more widespread. In addition to sewer pipe networks, this technology can be used in various applications, including oil and gas pipelines, air ducts, and factories. Pipebots are just one example of how robotics and AI transform how we maintain and repair critical infrastructure. Using these technologies can prevent costly repairs and reduce environmental impact, all while providing safe and efficient solutions for our growing needs.


Pipebots offer an innovative solution to the problem of water waste caused by sewer pipeline leaks. These tiny robots can crawl through narrow pipes and find faults and damage, allowing engineers to fix the issues quickly and efficiently. Using pipebots has many benefits, including reduced water waste, faster repair times, and cost savings. Currently being tested in Europe, pipebots have a bright future ahead as more industries realize the benefits of this technology. Using robotics and AI, we can create safer, more efficient, and more sustainable solutions for our infrastructure needs.

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