How Pipe Inspection Robots Are Being Used To Detect Water Leaks

You discover you have a leaky pipe, but you can’t figure out where the leak is coming from. It can be a challenge to identify the source of a leak, but modern technology has come up with a great solution; the shuttlecock robot.

When you compare the amount of water that actually comes out of your pipes in your home to the amount of water that began the journey, it may shock you to know that as much as half of that water is lost due to leaky pipes.

These leaks not just occur within the home, but along the pipes that transport the water from its source to residential areas. Depending upon where those pipes are routed those leaks can cause serious damage to infrastructures as well as being a huge waste of water.

This problem is common in almost every nation that pipes water into homes and buildings across the country. It is a significant enough issue that MIT thought it warranted investigating a possible solution, and what their team of experts came up with is a robot shaped like a shuttlecock that can travel through the pipes and locate the source of leaks. The pipe robot has been named PipeGuard.

Quick and economical –

Where methods used to locate and repair leaks today are slow and can be extremely expensive, the accuracy and speed at which MIT’s new robot could detect leaks, even very small ones, will greatly reduce the time and expense of doing so.

How it Works –

The PipeGuard robot would be inserted into a pipe via a fire hydrant and then would be carried by the water flow through the pipe system. Using position tracking equipment, the robot would be monitored during its journey. Irregularities in the pipe’s structure would register through the robot’s soft rubber skirt, and the information would be recorded and stored for further investigation.

Once the robot reaches the end of its journey, it is retrieved and the recorded date uploaded for further analysis.

Self-propelled Robot –

In addition to the model above, MIT developed a version that is capable of controlling its own movement through the pipes. It has been tested with good results, enough that it has drawn attention from Saudi Arabia whose pipelines lose an estimated 33% of the country’s water supply.

As much of Saudi Arabia’s water is gained through desalination, an expensive process, it is vital that the country find ways to not only conserve water but prevent the large percentage of loss that is currently being experienced.

In one test the PipeGuard robot was inserted into a rusted pipe measuring 1.5km long. False leaks were planted along the pipe to test the robot’s ability to detect the difference between real leaks and the planted ones. The robot performed exceptionally well, even detecting a leak that was ten times smaller than any other detection method would be able to find.

Future Potential –

Though the PipeGuard has not yet been released onto the market, the potential for water suppliers to be able to quickly locate leaks is exciting. The cost savings alone of early detection will have a very positive impact on water suppliers worldwide. Infrastructures will be far less likely to suffer damages, homes, and businesses will not have to deal with the loss of water supply, and utility bills will likely be reduced as these cost savings are realized.

The MIT team is in the process of exploring the possibility of the PipeGuard not only being able to detect leaks but undertake necessary repairs which if successful has enormous potential benefits.

How To Use Video Pipe Inspection To Identify & Resolve Plumbing Issues

Article was written by The Drain Camera Shop 

Most people would not think it, but the pipes that make up your sewage system are one of the most important systems in your life. Sewer systems are the providers of convenient sanitation, and without them, we would have to deal with a lot of mess and stress.

If you discover broken pipes or leaks or find a blockage, it is critical to contact a plumber immediately. Plumbers can use video pipe inspections to assist with cleaning and repairing pipes. The use of this technique proves beneficial to your pipes, and ultimately you.

How Does It Work?

If you notice backed up materials appearing through drains or that drains are emptying slowly, get in touch with a plumber to inspect the pipes first. After inspection, you will be able to determine a solution. Using a video pipe inspection helps to locate the exact root of the problem allowing the plumber to develop he best course for repair or cleaning.

The process of video pipe inspection relies on a tiny camera that is attached to a cable. This cable is lowered into drains and gives the plumber a 360-degree view of the pipes, and the problem. Through the live stream, plumbers can detect where the problem is, such as a leak or clog location. A problem cannot be fixed without first seeing where it is and how bad it is.

What Can You Tell From a Pipe Inspection?

This inspection can often tell you about a problem you were not expecting because there are numerous reasons you can have drainage issues. Knowing the cause will determine the course of action, which is why it is best to have a plumber inspect first, so you don’t start in with an ineffective solution. Potential drainage issues can be caused by:

Oils and grease: Buildup of fats or oily substances cause large blockages and slow water movement. Not only will water drain slowly, but the backup can cause debris to flow back through the drain.

Cracks: most people are not aware that cracked pipes and leaks are major causes of backed up drainage systems.

Tree roots: Tree roots love to grow towards water sources, which makes sewer lines a popular destination. Roots can wrap around pipes puncturing and invading them, filling them until they are completely locked up.

It is important to remember that “not all plumbers have video pipe inspection resources.” says Joe from The Drain Camera Shop. Check with a plumber before hiring to make sure they can inspect the drains using this technology first. Jumping in without prior inspection using just an auger to clear the drain can make a situation worse because the pipe is in need of serious repairs.

Sewer Pipe Inspection: Before and After

This video pipe technology can also be used after cleaning and repairs, so you can see that the problem was fixed and what your pipes should look like. It can also identify if further action is still required. Sometimes, another cleaning attempt may be needed, using a more powerful tool like a hydro jetter or there may be more cracks further along that were missed the first time. Since you rely on the trained plumber to fix the issue, you may want the assurance provided by this newer pipe inspection equipment.

Here’s An Interesting Video Showing How Pipe Inspections Work:

Why You Should Get A Sewer Inspection Before Buying A New Home

Once you have your dream home and the inspection is done, you are ready to settle in. Or are you? Even though inspections are a standard, it is not uncommon for sewer pipe inspection systems to be called in for additional inspections, but the problem is that you already own the house. It happens frequently, that new homeowners discover existing plumbing problems too late. Because each home can come with its own unique problems and plumbing issues, the list below is provided to help you find them before you buy.

Main sewer

Sometimes sewer lines between the sewage plant and the home can get clogged. Plumbers can use sewer inspection cameras or sewer crawl robots to see the lines and may find that the issue is caused by deteriorating lines. With older sewer lines, they have often corroded so badly, that only the ground around them is holding them together, which means another clog will form in due time.

With weakened lines, you also run the risk of them collapsing during repair. The silver lining to this problem is that when discovered early enough by a pipe inspection camera, the line can be repaired before it gets too much worse. If left alone, complete replacement is going to be a much more costly option.

It is important to remember that drains clog for a reason. Before purchasing a home, it is recommended to have a plumber inspect the lines with a sewer push camera. If there is any significant damage and repairs are needed, it is better to know that before you own the home.

Water heaters

On average a water heater will last ten years depending on the quality of the water, how the heater is used in the house and the installation and maintenance. If a water heater is used to heat your house and provide hot water for each faucet, then it will have a shorter lifespan.

You need to consider the tank’s location also. If there is a leak, you want to know if carpets or dry wall will be damaged. Essentially, if the water heater is in a place where property damage can occur in the event of a leak, you want to prevent that.

Generally, water heaters are located out of sight such as a utility closet. They can still cause a great deal of damage even when hidden away. You also need to consider if the heater is sitting on a pan with a drain, because in this case, you may never even be aware of a leak until visible damage occurs. Water pans will eventually overflow which will cause damage you can see. If the tank is located in a space where significant property damage can occur, then it needs to be replaced before moving in as a preventative measure.

Have a licensed professional plumber inspect the unit first because they can tell the age of the heater using serial number and model. They can tell you if it is running to code and is safe. You also want to ask them if the heater is the correct size to meet the needs of the house.

When a house has a soaking tub, the water heater is all too often undersized for the volume of water needed. If the tub is not used often, water heaters can be replaced for smaller more efficient units to save money. The first step should always be making sure the tank size is adequate for the family size and needs.


A problem that is often neglected upon buying a home is leaks at the base of the toilets. These leaks are often small but eventually cause big damage as the water soaks into the floorboards and causes rot. You should never try to seal the leak yourself, as this can cause even more damage.

To identify toilet leaks, you should first look for any discoloration around the base. Then test the floor around the base with your foot to see if it moves or feels soft. Finally, the bowl itself should not move; when held from both sides it should not slide or wobble. If any movement is detected the deal could be damaged or the flange may not be secure, and you need to get a plumber.

When you are purchasing a home, it is a significant investment, so you want to be sure you are getting the quality you pay for. When it comes to negotiating the sale price, it helps to know if the house has galvanized pipes, copper pipes, lead closet bends or any inferior system. Having an inspection of the entire plumbing system done with a sewer push camera and pipe inspection system before buying will give you peace of mind and save you money. The minor fixes you do at this point will be easier to handle than the larger ones you will incur when the plumbing system fails.