New ROV Will Inspect Pipes from the Inside

Aquam Corporation announced their Amplus robot, beaming data from the inside of pipelines.

Last week the Aquam Corporation announced the Amplus, a new remote operated vehicle for exploring pressurized water, wastewater and industrial pipelines. The technology debuted this week at the American Water Works Association conference in Las Vegas. The system works in pipelines with diameters over than 200 millimeters. The crawler can travel up to 1,000 meters and operates in pressures up to 10 bar. The major functions of the first round of Amplus vehicles are wall thickness assessment, corrosion assessment, closed circuit tv inspection and long distance leak detection.

Emma Quail, Vice President of Aquam Pipe Diagnostics, answered a few questions about the development of the new Amplus unit. She said that the design goals for a pipe-exploring vehicle revolved around developing a craft that was nimble, reactive and able to withstand pressurized pipes, all while sending high resolution data back to the user. The biggest design decision the team made was keeping the mechanical robot components away from the electronics packages. The group built in this modularity to make maintenance more simple and also allow for upgrades of either system without fully replacing a full Amplus unit.

Even though Amplus units have two cameras, a hydrophone, and an ultrasonic scanning head already, there was a desire to also include Aquam’s laser profiling technology. To keep the unit’s footprint low the laser was removed from the first production group but Quail hopes that that it can be added on subsequent design iterations. Another design challenge was creating a robot that can collapse for insertion into the pipe and then expand once in the working area. A hinge in the middle of the Amplus allows for a small package and then when ready to deploy the axles open up and the hinge locks into place. Manufacturing challenges included the tradeoff between tight tolerances, stackup penalties, and keeping the unit price low.

I work in Flint, Michigan so it’s easy to think of immediate needs for a system like the Amplus to check pipes for contaminants, cracks and leaks. It will be interesting in the next few months to see whether or not state and local governments are quick to adapt this new technology, along with utility companies and commercial applications.  I’m always excited to see remote vehicles moving in completely new directions, and the ability to build huge sets of data to make better and more informed decisions – this new system does both.