Miniature robots have now been created by engineers to patrol the pipe network, look for problems, and stop leaks in the UK. The Integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre (ICAIR) is testing a new generation of subterranean robotic pipe patrollers. Pipebots are miniature, mobile robots with all-terrain legs and cameras for eyes. They are being developed in conjunction with the water sector to scour pipes for weaknesses and cracks before they become leaks. With a microphone to hear the pipe, they move along it while shooting images. They are made to determine whether a problem in the pipe is likely to occur or not. Professor Netta Cohen, an expert in artificial intelligence at the University of Leeds, claims that communication is the pipebots’ largest hurdle. She is working on a system with her coworkers in which a larger “mother” robot carries and launches a fleet of smaller robots.

Leaks are a common and challenging issue since millions of properties in the UK are served by thousands of kilometers of pipe, all of varying age and condition. “In [this region] alone, we look after more than 8,500 kilometers (5,282 miles) of pipe, and only about half the leaks in those pipes are visible, which means it’s complicated to pinpoint where [the rest] are,” said Colin Day of Essex and Suffolk Water. The subject of wasted water has received a lot of attention this year. Following the summer drought, localized hosepipe prohibitions are still in effect for three firms, South East Water, South West Water, and Yorkshire Water, according to Water UK. According to Ofwat, 20% of consumers in England and Wales are having trouble paying their water bills in the current economic downturn.