CoVar Technologies Solutions

Pipe Scanning Radar

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in managing and maintaining the United States’ aging municipal infrastructure.

As sewer and water pipes reach the end of their useful life expectancy, municipalities are relying on sensing technology to prioritize repairs and replacements. Pipe-scanning radar represents a breakthrough technology that is poised to transform infrastructure inspection. Ground penetrating radar technology adapted to scan sewer pipes from inside the pipe can assess pipe wall integrity, the presence of voids outside the pipe wall (which can lead to sinkholes), and even help correct inaccurate or missing blueprints.

The FutureScan pipe scanning radar travels through sewer pipes on a robotic transport and images pipe integrity and the surrounding media for evidence of soil voids and measures pipe deterioration.

The FutureScan pipe analysis algorithms showing pipe wall detection and tracking and void detection. The yellow lines show the detected inner (top) and outer (bottom) walls of the pipe. The confidence of a void detection algorithm looking for air pockets that may indicate future sink holes is shown in blue.

CoVar supported Cues, Inc. in their development of FutureScan, which leverages just this sort of technology. Sponsored under a NIST Technology Improvement Project grant and fielded in January of 2014, FutureScan is giving cities a previously unseen glimpse inside and behind the millions of miles of buried pipe in this country. Ultra-wideband (UWB) antenna arrays are mounted on a robot that travels the length of the pipe. Microwave pulses are emitted from the antennas and, much like sonar, their reflections are analyzed to build an image of the interior of the pipe wall as well as the structure supporting and surrounding the exterior of the pipe.

Algorithms operating on the received radar data are used to detect and track the inner and outer walls of the pipe, detect the presence and regularity of rebar inside the pipe, and identify air gaps just above the pipe that may indicate the development of sink holes, known as voids. Each of these characteristics are extracted from the data and provided to the operator in real-time as the robot moves through the pipe.

CoVar provided system design engineering, antenna design testing and integration, RF circuit design, algorithm and software development, and data collection recommendations for the project. CoVar was instrumental in enabling Cues to achieve an on-time and on-budget product deployment milestone. FutureScan today represents a best-in-class sensor product for infrastructure inspection.

Click here for more information about Cues, Inc. and their infrastructure inspection products.

Images courtesy of Cues, Inc.