Pipeline ExplorerNREC designed, built and deployed Pipeline Explorer, the first untethered, remotely-controlled robot for inspecting live underground natural gas distribution pipelines.
Explorer represents the state of the art in remote-controlled inspection systems for low-pressure and high-pressure natural gas pipelines. The battery-powered Explorer performs long-range, extended duration visual inspections of cast-iron and steel gas mains. Unlike older, tethered systems, Explorer inspects thousands of feet of pipeline from a single excavation point. An operator controls Explorer through a wireless link and can monitor pipeline images in real time.
With an aging gas pipeline infrastructure, utilities face ever-increasing needs for more frequent inspections of the distribution network. Conventional pipe-inspection methods require frequent access excavations for the use of push-pull tethered systems with an inspection range of no more than 100 to 200 feet per excavation. This results in multiple, costly and lengthy inspections for multi-mile sections of pipe in search of data needed for decisions on pipeline rehabilitation.
The Explorer system can access thousands of feet of pipeline from a single excavation. It collects real-time visual inspection data and provides immediate remote feedback to the operator for decisions relating to water intrusion or other defects. This information is collected faster and at a lower cost than can be obtained via conventional methods.