Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

A novel technology for sewerage mapping, inspection and cleaning with integrated real-time self-audit capability

Final Report Summary - PIPEGUARD (A novel technology for sewerage mapping, inspection and cleaning with integrated real-time self-audit capability)

Executive Summary:

Sewage systems are crucial to reduce the risks of water borne diseases and avoid flooding of cities. Cleaning processes are thus highly important to avoid health risks and environmental, economic and societal impacts which can be caused by damaged or blocked sewerage. Sewer networks must therefore not only be kept clean, they also have to be continuously inspected in order to detect structural damages, pipe deterioration and construction failures in order to avoid local city floods, backflow into basements, traffic disturbances, street and surface erosion, and pollution of ground water and local receiving waters. Hence, if the sewerage is damaged or blocked, there is a significant environmental, social and public health risk. During the cleaning process, high amounts of water are used to clean the pipes regardless of the real cleaning demands. Hence, there is a high need to develop a system integrating a reliable inspection tool which efficiently varies the cleaning process according to the real demand.

The PIPEGUARD system is about the development of an all in one system for the maintenance of pipes and sewage systems. It can detect the degree of pollution and damages in sewage pipes with ultrasound and clean them only if necessary. The geographic location of the pipe will be also mapped in real-time via an inertial navigation system to allocate detected damages to their position and to obtain reliable position mapping for the creation of 3D network maps.

This will lead into an advanced sewer cleaning management and contributing to an improvement of its overall state, as a result of modifying the periodicity of cleaning and optimizing maintenance costs depending on network characteristics and needs.

Project Context and Objectives:

The first aim of the work is the scientific understanding of sewer pipe cleaning and inspection principle. The requirements and qualification of PIPEGUARD have to be identified in comparison to traditional cleaning and inspection processes. These results were consolidated into a requirement report. Analyse of the testing methods and equipment for the qualification of the PIPEGUARD performance. Definition of all basic parameters and requirements that define the unit and its sub stages. The interfaces in design and function between the components and process stages were fixed. The data are collected by literature investigations, interviews with potential customers and first qualifying tests.

The ultrasonic scanning system objective is to design and optimize the free water jet ultrasonic carrier unit by the research on measuring a pipe with an ultrasonic free water jet carrier head. General parameter extraction when scattering the ultrasonic beam using different frequencies must be specified. Furthermore a suitable design and tests of combining the cleaning system with the ultrasonic-carrier head and imaging unit will be performed. Result of the ultrasonic system will be the possibility to determinate the pipe-surface and the pipe-sedimentations by using diverse system configurations.

The development of a 3D tracking unit based on the developments of a system model, subsequent application-specific Kalman filter design and finally an implementation of the newly developed algorithms. Evaluation of a 3D INS tracking unit specification and the designs. Development of a prototype of a 3D tracking unit for the functional tests. The work specifically consists of:

- Development of a sensor configuration and housing
- Development of a state and error model of the system
- Development of a Kalman filter to reduce the gyroscopic drift
- Development of a Kalman filter to reduce the accelerometric drift
- Implementation of the tracking software incorporating the two Kalman filters

All the sensor units developed in the former work packages must be implemnted into a control system (PLC) to steer the cleaning process in accordance to the deposit situation inside the pipe. The integration of the developed and separate technological units into a cleaning and inspection “nozzle” construction must be performed. All results documented out of the previous work packages will be evaluated by methodical procedures and integrated into the design concept of a complete system. We will develop, design and manufacture a demonstration device with industrial standards. This demonstration unit is consequently designed according to the need of real application.

- Construction of a prototype cleaning and inspection housing “nozzle” for PIPEGUARD
- Development of a lab scale prototype of “nozzle” with included INS-Unit,the ultrasonic, the power and water supply and the data processing unit
- Development of a sufficient robust housing for protecting the electronics inside the nozzle construction to the harsh environmental surroundings inside the pipe
- Set up of a prototype and evaluation by tests
- A robust housing will be designed to protect the INS from the harsh sewer environments

To ensure that all project results are formulated and compiled into a form that can be protected and that all necessary patents are assigned. To transfer specific knowledge from the RTD performers to the SME participants to enable them to apply the diverse technology and embed it onto specific products. To broadcast the benefits of the developed technology and knowledge beyond the consortium to potential industrial user communities. To assess the socio-economic impact.

To formulate the project results into a protecting form and apply to patent protection on

• PIPEGUARD by month 18 of the project.
• To transfer knowledge from the RTD performers to the SME participants through 2 technologytransfer events and interactions including 2 secondments and placements of 2 staff providing a total of 500 hours of technology transfer.

To broadcast the benefits of the developed technology and knowledge beyond the consortium of potential industrial user communities with the need of sewer pipe cleaning, geographical mapping or optical sensing such as pipe cleaning companies. Project results formulated into a protectable form included patents. Develop an Exploitation Strategy; a Consortium Agreement signed between the partners and protection of the Intellectual Property Rights arising from the technological developments in the project. Promotion of PIPEGUARD technology to sewer pipe cleaning companies through networks of industrial contacts through trade press, regional clusters, chambers of commerce networks, websites and wide distribution of CD ROMs and DVDs.

Disseminating knowledge & benefits of the new feed-back controlled cleaning technology to over 400 sewer and drain cleaning companies, through JT-elektronik’s industry training seminars and additional presence at Conferences. Contact with sewer pipe cleaning associations and international

organisations etc. to spread knowledge about PIPEGUARD. SAP business development resource to promote dissemination of system benefits to municipality clients.

Project Results:

The PipeGuard system is designed to be mounted on-board a tractor-like platform, such as the one manufactured by the SME partner JT Electroniks. This platform is a four wheel tractor-like vehicle containing an analog video camera. It is a tethered vehicle, linked to a ground station by means of power and signal cables. The developed PipeGuard system has been integrated in such a tractor platform.

The PipeGuard hardware architecture is composed by two main di erentiated blocks. A main block mounted on-board the platform which collects all sensory data concerning di erent required measurements. On the other hand, the ground station, placed out of the pipe, which contains a cable encoder and a computer network where estimation processes and an user interface are running. Furthermore, several interfaces between both parts have been implemented in order to communicate the whole system. In the attachment Figure "Pipeguard - hardware architecture" this hardware architecture is depicted. The functionality of each hardware sub-system showed in this picture is outlined in the following list:

- Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU): It will be in charge of measuring platform inertial information (rotational speeds and linear accelerations).
- Ultrasound Header, an ultrasound probe ring to detect dirtyness and failures in the pipe walls.
- Video camera on-board of JT platform, it collects visual images that are provided in real-time to an external operator.
- Stereo High Dynamic Range (HDR) camera: It could be implemented to provide inner pipe images and to support the localization system.
- On-board Computer: collects IMU readings and synchronizes HDR trigger with IMU readings.
- Power Supply: energy to power ground station systems, as well as to supply on-board hardware. It is driven by a DC power line cable.
- Cable encoder: it provides real-time data of the total unfolded cable length.
- Ground Station Computer Network: A Local Area Network (LAN) composed by, at least, one router and two computers:

· They are devoted to execute data fusion algorithms, grabbing images and executing a graphical user interface, allowing human-machine interaction for monitoring and controlling the cleaning inspection.

- Ultrasonic Measurement Device: The required hardware for analog processing and digital conversion of ultrasound probe signals.

The PipeGuard software architecture is based on a set of processes which are thought to run in a single machine or in a computer network. A communication software library is used to allow processes to pass messages through them, despite the machine where they are running. Main processes running on-line during inspection and cleaning operations are shown in the attachment "Pipeguard - software processes", where boxes represent processes, while arrows imply data flow.

PipeGuard prototype processes are outlined in the following list, which briefly describes their role in the final application.

- IMU server: on-board acquisition of IMU sensor readings.
- IMU & Encoder synchronization: packing of IMU and cable encoder readings with a common time stamp. Trigger generation for HDR camera acquisition.
- HDR camera acquisition: image acquisition of HDR stereo camera.
- Visual Joint Detection: visual detection of circular pipe joints to support localization estimates.
- Localization: on-line platform trajectory estimation.
- Ultrasound Acquisition: on-board acquisition of ultrasound probe signals.
- Ultrasound Processing: computes estimates of inner pipe ellipses parameters.
- GUI: visualization of trajectory estimate and sedimentation level.

Throughout the whole PIPEGUARD project, a system to improve the cleaning performance in sewer systems has been fully specified, designed and implemented. The present document describes the testing and optimization work performed to asses and to validate the performance of the PIPEGUARD system. The trials performed have shown that the specified scientific and technical objectives described in the Description of Work for PIPEGUARD project have been met.

- A system able to produce verifiable documentary proof of cleaning results, condition of pipes and location of pipes has been created, by identifying and quantifying sedimentation and associated locations in the pipe and drawing a complete map of the pipe system under inspection.
- A series of algorithms able to adjust the cleaning process and provide cleaning on demand features has been provided. System includes real‐time evaluation with a control feedback algorithm to allow detection at the same time of cleaning.
- Control algorithms for the inertial navigation system to enable navigation and stabilization of the nozzle in order to grant functionality in difficult environments, consistent ultrasonic propagation and associated accuracy have been created.
- A robust system has been created and validated in both real and simulated sewer environments, capable of working in pipes down to 100mm diameter, which meets, by far, the 800mm diameter specified. By compensating parameters as a function of the environment values, system is able to withstand temperature fluctuations, high humidity levels, extreme pH and impacts.
- A system able to measure in real‐time variations in depth of soils and sediments has been built.
- A radial ultrasonic screening of pipe wall surfaces capable of detecting sedimentation and pipe defects has been achieved.
- A simple and user-friendly system operable by personnel with basic training has been developed.
- A cleaning and inspection rate of up to 60 meters per minute has been implemented, which results 6 times faster than required.

As conclusion, PIPEGUARD system is able to improve the pipe cleaning process by means of detecting the pipe failures, sedimentation and the geographic point where they are located in real time. Furthermore, PIPEGUARD technology allows users to create a map of the entire piping environment (online and offline) which detects the amount and location of the sedimentation. These capabilities make PIPEGUARD an innovative system which optimizes the cleaning process of pipes reducing the water consumption used.

Actually, in the Pipeguard project, the developed foreground is not protectable from the view of the SME - partners.

Potential Impact:

A multipurpose all-in-one system for cleaning and inspection of sewage pipe. Pipe cross sections are scanned contineous in real time with a simultaneously and very precise 3D mapping of the sewage system could save a lot of maintenance costs for the operators of the sewage systems like municipalities.

The IP distribution of the PipeGuard project results have been recorded in an Exploitation Agreement which is signed by all project partners.It has been agreed in advance by all parties involved in the PIPEGUARD project that all of the Intellectual property (IP) developed by this project will be owned exclusively by the SMEs that have invested time, contribution and effort in this R&D project and hope to commercialise the final system to improve their competitive situation.

The RTDs provided development services using the granted fund from the EC. They will be remunerated by 100% for their research activities and will not share any foreground IP ownership. Each SME company extracts its experience from the project. Each SME company can use the results and findings for itself. Developments, on the basis of the results of the PIPEGUARD-project, can be undertaken by the SME company for his own purposes. It is important to note the condition that the information and foreground IP will not leave the Consortium and respectively not allowed to be passed to others. Each Partner will be free to develop versions of his own Products on any hardware and/or software platform. In principle, these versions shall be considered Ported Products in the same way each Partner can develop products derived from his/her own Products without any obligations towards other Partners. Derived and ported product will be defined in detailed.

A confidentiality agreement is concluded between the partners under the exploitation agreement. It was invested much effort and resources in the framework of the project, so that must be ensured that the results stay with the parties, who should benefit in accordance with the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) “Research for the benefit of SMEs”. For this reason we place total value on the non disclosure of confidential information to third parties and we work accordingly. The RTD and SME partners keep silence about the contents of the development of the PIPEGUARD technology (information of deliverables, discussions, manuals etc.). Know-How may not be distributed. The foreground IP of the PIPEGUARD project and confidential information remains only with the SMEs and may not be disclosed to third parties unless it is information that is already publicly known.

The activities of disseminations are various and within the consortium, an internal and password protected area on the public website "" was implemented to improve the internal communication and to achieve a higher transparency to all project participants. In this area all meeting documentations, deliverables and reports can be found. Furthermore, on the public website all project descriptions and partner information can be found.

A project leaflet was created to be issued to current events, announcements or advertising and actively distributed free of charge by people or other methods and they are available for portability. The leaflet of PIPEGUARD is designed in DIN long format which is an A4 page folded double. It is a very useful format for the typical marketing activities and it can be sent in an ordinary envelopes. The text and image content of the flyers were carefully selected and discussed within the Consortium. For promotion activities during seminars, conferences and fairs a Roll-Up-System with most information of the Pipeguard project was designed and manufactured. This is an important system to present the advertising messages to a wider audiences on fairs. The design of the roll-Up is oriented on the PIPEGUARD leaflet.

The SME and RTD-partners participated in several activities and events to present the developed PIPEGUARD technology.

- DWA-Kanalisationstage 12./13.12.2012 Kongresszentrum Westfalenhalle, Dortmund
- 26. Lindauer Seminar "Applied canalization technology – sustainables sewer systems" 07./08.03.2013
- ICRA conference in Karlsruhe "International Conference on Robotics and Automation" 06./13.05.2013
- DWA-Landestagung NRW 10.07.2013 Ruhrfestspielhaus Recklinghausen
- JT-elektronik „Open house presentation“ 09.03.2012
- IFAT ENTSORGA 2012 – World's Leading Trade Fair for Water, Sewage, Waste and Raw Materials Management 07./11.05.2012 Munich
- JT-elektronik „Open house presentation“ 09.03.2013
- RO-KA-TECH - 2013 International Trade Fair for Pipe- and Sewer Technology 21./23.03.2013
- BAUMA 2013 - 30th International Trade Fair for Construction Machinery, Building Material Machines, Mining Machines, Constructions Vehicles and Construction Equipment 15./21. April, Munich

Also a paper by the RTD-partner CETaqua was presented and published at the 5th Annual IEEE International Conference on Technologies for Practical Robot Applications (TePRA) which was held in the Greater Boston Area, Massachusetts, USA on April 22-23, 2013. With an emphasis on practical applications and industrial participation, TePRA provides researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs and robotics professionals with a balanced forum in robotics science, engineering and technology. The presentations selected through IEEE's rigorous peer-review process highlights new uses of algorithms, components, and whole systems in practical robot applications. As an emerging robotics conference, past TePRA programs included more than 180 technical paper and poster presentations combined, robot demonstrations, student competitions, panel sessions and exhibits.

Actually, there is no intention of protecting the developed applications.

List of Websites:

Contact email: