A prototype vehicle designed and manufactured by WaterNSW is bringing greater safety and efficiency to the task of inspecting the Warragamba Dam pipelines supplying 80 per cent of Sydney’s untreated water.
A modified mobility scooter equipped with high-tech video camera can inspect as much pipeline in two days as would have previously taken a team of 10 up to two weeks, while reducing the exposure to confined spaces risk.
Built using off-the-shelf technology and able to be disassembled and lowered into place via manholes, the device is ideally suited to drive on the pipes’ curved, smooth interior.
The vehicle was designed and built by WaterNSW asset team members at Warragamba Dam after trials involving drones and other crawling devices proved unsuited to the task.
Driven by one operator, with a similar safety vehicle as back-up, the unit’s 360-degree video images of the pipe interior can be reproduced in 3D if any faults or maintenance actions are identified, to better understand the required repairs.
The device recently completed a comprehensive examination of 8km of pipeline in two days, a task which would have previously taken up to 10 people working in the pipe almost constantly for a fortnight.
The 27-kilometre-long twin pipelines move water from Warragamba Dam to Prospect Reservoir. Inspection and maintenance of the pipes’ interior are carried out in winter when water demand is lower.
The fact that this innovation removes the need for large groups of maintenance staff to work for long periods inside pipes – exposed to a confined space risk – is the major advantage of the prototype vehicle, according to WaterNSW executive manager operations, Ronan Magaharan.
“This work system means we can undertake critical maintenance tasks in greater safety, in more detail and much more efficiently – it is a showcase example of best-practice infrastructure maintenance,” he said.
“The safety of our people is always our paramount concern, and this vehicle means that the number of people in the pipe is reduced from about 10 to two, and that includes a safety vehicle supporting the camera work, with the rest of the crew coordinating from the surface.”
According to Magaharan, it is a testament to the Warragamba team that their pursuit of excellence has resulted in this ground-breaking solution, after trials of other devices proved unsuccessful.
“The team showed the initiative to design and construct their own purpose-built vehicle that is not only far more efficient, the information it gathers is more useful and it does so with safety at the fore.”
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