Birdie Shaped Robot Can Find Leaks in Pipes


Staff member
Mar 3, 2018
A robot that can crawl through pipes and check for leaks just won the 2018 Dyson Award. MIT doctoral student You Wu says development of the birdie shaped contraption started with a "request from Saudi Arabia", which loses over 30% of their water supply to pipe leaks, and is the product of 6 years of research. "Lighthouse," as the machine is called, can be inserted into a T junction below fire hydrants and passively move with the flow of water. Along the way, it can find leaks as small as 10mm, a 10 fold improvement over current detection methods.

Check out the video of the robot in action.

Every day 20% of the clean water produced in the world is lost due to pipe leaks. Due to limitations in current technologies, most of the leaks are either not found, or found too late. Every year, there are 240,000 water pipe breaks in the US, and many of them cause sinkholes and other severe damage to the infrastructure. Water utilities need methods for detecting and locating such leaks before they become big breaks, so that they can perform preventative maintenance to save water and protect infrastructure. If we can find and fix half of all leaks in the world, we can recover enough leaked water to support 1 billion more people's daily need.
I hope those are just the early prototypes in the picture, otherwise I thinking, "WTF, it took them 6 years to make those cobbled-together things?"
Won't be long before ERs reporting high number of individuals getting these stuck in the rear.