Drones could be used to detect 'invisible' water leaks

Flying drones equipped with infrared cameras could be used to detect leaks in water pipe systems under vast areas of desert, according to new research from Nottingham Trent University.

The research found that high- and low-resolution infrared cameras could detect from a height the change in sand temperature which occurs when leaking water evaporates underground.

If utilised, such technology could be used to help reduce the vast quantities of water which can be lost in large-scale underground water pipe systems, particularly in arid countries where water is transported over large distances.

“The early detection of leaks would enable water providers in arid countries like Libya to improve their operational efficiency, reduce the potential for the contamination of water and extend the life of facilities,” said Bubaker Shakma one of the researchers involved in the project.

The proposed quadcopter drones, would over short distances and using GPS technology, pinpoint exactly where a leak has occurred to allow for corrective work to take place as soon as possible.

However, for greater distances, an infrared camera would need to be attached to an inflated zeppelin, or other device capable of being anchored to the back of a vehicle to be driven along pipeline routes.

“Water is one of the most precious commodities around the world, but significant quantities are lost on a daily basis through leaking and broken pipes,” said project leader Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh. “What we are proposing is a non-contact and high-speed system that can be used remotely to detect changes in humidity over vast areas of desert.”

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