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Managing Aging Infrastructure With Underwater Drones

Rachel Doornekamp   |   September 27, 2019

Infrastructure maintenance and management is incredibly important for the health and safety of the communities relying on them to maintain daily life. Unfortunately aging infrastructure is becoming a reality for cities across the globe. With a large number of bridges, dams and municipal waterways reaching 50 to 100 years of age, the importance of infrastructure maintenance has multiplied.

Aging infrastructure is a reality for the majority of cities around the world. Many municipal waterways, dams, and bridges were built over 50 to 100 years ago, and these systems are showing their age. It is imperative that repairs, maintenance, and ongoing development are completed to fight against water main breaks, contaminations, and degradation; the cost of which is massive, and the long-term effects devastating.

Prioritizing maintenance and repairs saves time and money in the long run. Water main breaks or blocks, degradation and contamination issues result in massive financial losses, not to mention the long-term effects on the surrounding neighbourhoods. Routine inspections on infrastructure including sewage lines, water tanks, and bridges is imperative for the prevention of these costly issues.

At Deep Trekker we are passionate about the proper and safe inspection of the infrastructure that supports our everyday life. An ROV solution provides a straightforward, cost-effective way to maintain the health of important infrastructure.

Inspection of our infrastructure isn’t always easy. Constructions such as bridges, dams and water systems house millions of tons of concrete within their foundations, frequently hidden deep underwater. Concrete is not infallible, and continued maintenance and observation are crucial to ensuring the safety and efficiency of a community’s transportation and water systems. In the past, divers have been utilized to conduct integrity testing and repair damage on these submerged structures. This not only is dangerous, but it is also quite costly. Inspecting concrete structures requires a high degree of specialization in concrete, engineering and aging infrastructure. The dive is often also physically demanding on a diver, precarious currents, turbid waters, confined spaces and contamination issues make this kind of inspection timely, dangerous and expensive.

A Different Way to Approaching Aging Infrastructure Inspections

CTL Engineering is a firm that is utilizing an innovative technology in tandem with their dive teams to evaluate existing structure integrity and conduct degradation testing and maintenance. The integration of Deep Trekker’s DTG3, a robust and versatile - remotely operated vehicle (ROV), into their offered services has allowed CTL to develop a scheduled maintenance program that is more cost effective and efficient to its clients. A deployed Deep Trekker ROV will look for structural risks such as cracks, leaks, or signs of deterioration on the piers of a bridge. Additionally, inspections are now being done without risk to a diver, where precarious currents and murky water can be safety risks. Inspections of concrete tanks, which are integral to maintaining effective water systems, are now being done without risk of contaminating drinking water or having to drain the tank. CTL experts are surveying concrete infrastructure to ascertain through observation the course of action required - whether it is simply the recorded data of an inspection utilized to schedule future maintenance, or the need to launch a dive team to work on development and repair of tanks, dams and bridge piers.

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Pipeline Inspection

Cities and municipalities are adopting trenchless technology as an efficient way to work beneath the ground for public utilities from sewage and stormwater pipes, gas and electrical conduits, to the installation of new underground infrastructure. The noticeable growth in the use of trenchless technology increases as communities become more aware of the impact of infrastructure development and renewals on our social and ecological environments, and as the aging pipelines in our built up and congested urban areas require replacement.

The visual inspections of pipes is not possible making video the most popular method for checking for leaks and blockages. While pushcams and lateral launch cameras are available options, they do require an operator to physically push the cameras leaving the potential for cord damage and tricky maneuvering through twists and turns. A submersible pipe crawler provides greater control over how pipes are viewed as operators control the camera from above-ground using a remote control.

Because trenchless technology reduces the need for invasive excavations, a pipe crawler has much less of an impact on the surrounding environment. Residential neighbourhoods remain unscathed, commercial districts don’t have to deal with loss of business and rural regions remain undisturbed.

Excavating is one of the riskiest aspects of construction and safety is a paramount concern for infrastructure industries. Rendering the majority of excavations unnecessary can therefore only be a good thing – decaying pipe systems and related accidents become a thing of the past and workers can instead rely on the manual safety assurances provided by trenchless technology.

Trenchless technology allows for precise implements to be passed beneath existing surfaces and services in order to carry out complex procedures to a very high standard of accuracy, with minimal disruption to the surrounding area.

The battery operated DT340 Pipe Crawler and DT320 Mini Pipe Crawler feature scalable design to allow for the inspection of pipes from 6” to 36” in diameter, with a 280 degree camera rotation giving the operator complete pipe views. The tether length counter allows the user to easily identify where defects lie within the pipe system, while recording and photo capabilities give the user recorded data to schedule future maintenance.

Tank Inspection

Tank inspection is imperative for structurally sound, clean and safe water tanks. Without inspections, issues can arise quickly and sludge can build, compromising the integrity and cleanliness of the tank.

Tanks require regular maintenance and cleaning to protect both the contents and the structural integrity of the tanks. Typically drain inspection requires divers or tank draining, both of which are incredibly costly and time consuming.

The DT640 provides a simple, cost effective solution for tank inspection. The fully submersible crawler boasts a 360 degree turn radius, 8 hour battery life and various attachments. Using a handheld controller, the ROV is easily maneuvered without prior training providing a straightforward solution for regular tank inspections.

In addition to providing live underwater footage, Deep Trekker ROVs allow users to record both photo and video during inspections. Further organize this content with voice notes or titles to properly archive and present inspection reviews to clients. Recorded content is also beneficial for training and internal review processes.

One of the major risks associated with sending divers into tanks is the risk of contamination from their equipment if they do not follow a strict procedure. There are a lot of “nooks and crannies” on a dive suit that can hold bacteria and other potentially harmful materials to the potable water.

Due to their ease of use, portability and ability to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, Deep Trekker ROVs are ideal for potable water tank inspections and cleaning.

Structural Integrity

Dams, bridges and water systems are made up of immense amounts of concrete often hidden deep underwater. The regular inspection and maintenance of these structures is crucial to ensure safety and efficiency. In the past, divers have been used to monitor and repair submerged structures however these dives are not only physically demanding but bring forth contamination issues, difficult currents and confined space issues making inspection expensive, dangerous and time dependant.

An ROV like Deep Trekker’s DTG3 allows for underwater infrastructure to be inspected without the use of a dive team. With robust construction, 4k camera quality, floodlights and extreme maneuverability the battery operated DTG3 allows for inspections to take place from land. The handheld controller allows for photos and video to document areas of interest.

Add ons like the Cygnus Thickness Gauge Integration, Laser Scaler and various sonar systems provide further data and imagery. Learn more about Deep Trekker’s submersible ROV’s and robots or contact us today for a free quote!

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