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Pipefish Robot Patrols City Pipes to Detect ­nderground Water Leaks

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Wei-Min USC Information Sciences Institute Polymorphic Robotics Lab director Wei-Min Shen holds the PipeFish autonomous robot.

PipeFish is an autonomous robot that can travel through municipal water systems to detect damage to pipes.

Credit: Caitlin Dawson

Researchers at the University of Southern California's (USC) Information Sciences Institute are developing PipeFish, an autonomous robot that can quickly and inexpensively detect damage in municipal water pipes.

The robot, created by USC professor Wei-Min Shen, is inserted into the water system through existing fire hydrants. The device captures real-time video, using sensors and navigation technology to collect data and log its position as it moves through the pipes.

"Instead of excavating and replacing every pipe, which is a huge expense, PipeFish can narrow in on specific problems to enable repair before serious damage occurs," Shen says.

After retrieving the robot, the researchers upload and analyze the data it has collected, to detect warning signs of defects inside the pipe.

The researchers say they plan to program a "school" of PipeFish to travel along specific paths, enabling early and inexpensive detection and repair of water pipes in order to ensure clean, safe drinking water.

From USC Viterbi School of Engineering
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Abstracts Copyright © 2017 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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