Swimming Robots Inspect a Large Louisville Water Pipe

Pipediver imageOn a crisp autumn morning while thousands of people in Louisville turned on their faucets for drinking water, robotic devices moved through the underground pipes that deliver that water. The inspection is part of Louisville Water’s ongoing work to ensure reliability and high-quality water.

For more than 10 years, Louisville Water has used robotic technology to inspect its larger water mains, often while the pipes are filled with water. Recently a device called PipeDiver moved through three and a half miles of a large water main in southern Jefferson County, checking the pipe’s condition. The pipe delivers water to customers in the Highview area of southern Jefferson County and in Bullitt County.

Using technology and robotic devices to inspect large water mains helps Louisville Water maintain its 4,200 miles of pipes. A big advantage of this technology is that the inspection happens inside the water main while it’s filled with water, meaning there is no interruption in service and no traffic impact with large pieces of equipment in the roadway.

Crew using the PipediverLouisville Water partners with Xylem Technologies for the inspection. Crews insert the devices into the pipes and the water flow moves the devices for the length of the inspection. Engineers use valves to control where the robot travels and to retrieve it from the pipe. As it swam, PipeDiver Ultra captured images and sent ultrasonic signals that record the condition of the pipe and identify potential areas for repair.

The inspection is part of Louisville Water’s ongoing efforts to proactively check the conditions of the underground infrastructure.

The inspections help prevent issues and avoid leaks and breaks. In 2023, Louisville Water will spend $40 million to inspect, replace and repair infrastructure. Louisville Water’s annual capital budget includes dedicated funds for this work.

Since Louisville Water started using robotic technology to inspect large pipes, the devices have checked more than 110 miles of water mains and crews have repaired around 250 sections of pipe. Louisville Water has a similar program for the smaller water mains.