Pervasive autonomous sensing of buried pipes

In Europe, the total value of the sewer assets amounts to €2 trillion. The US EPA estimates that water collection systems in the USA have a total replacement value between $1 and $2 trillion. Similar figures can be assigned to other types of buried pipe assets that supply clean water and gas. In China alone 40,000 km of new sewer pipes are laid every year. However, little is known about the conditions of these pipes despite the pressure on water and gas supply utility companies to ensure that they operate continuously, safely, and efficiently. Existing inspection solutions are slow, relatively expensive and all require human intervention.

The academic excellence in this PhD project is that it will pave the way to the development of a pervasive autonomous sensing technology for buried pipe inspection which does not currently exist, but badly needed. The novelty of this project will be to study the performance of a dynamically reconfigurable swarm of acoustic, radio wave or IR sensors for the inspection of sewer and clean water pipes. This has not been done before. It is expected that these sensors will be deployed on autonomous robots when the robotic technology is ready in the next 10-20 years. Key academic challenges here is to demonstrate that this technology is feasible, accurate and robust to operate across scales in a range of fully surcharged and partially filled buried pipes. This will contribute to the complete elimination of human intervention required for the inspection and rehabilitation of buried pipes.


Primary supervisor

Prof Kirill Horoshenkov, Mechanical Engineering,


TWENTY65 Theme links

Inspecting and restoring water infrastructure using robotic autonomous systems

Understanding the potential for public engagement to improve water services

Collaboration for innovation