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Anglian Water trials drone imaging in ‘war on water leakage’

A UK water company will send remote controlled drones to the skies in a trial to use thermal imaging to detect leaking water pipes.

Anglian Water, with nearly 24,000 miles of piping to monitor, is the first UK company to trial the drones.

The company hopes that the drones, which will take to flight above Newmarket and Wisbech in eastern England, will help reduce the cost and time taken to find a leak and pinpoint its location by spotting changes in soil temperature.

Emma Staples from Anglian Water told Cambridge News that the drones are just the latest weapon in the company’s £60 million (€70.3m) “war on leakage”.

"We're testing other high-tech tools and have put more boots on the ground. Our 300-strong leakage team now includes new detection teams tasked with uncovering hard-to-find leaks, who have been given specialist training on how to use the new drone technology.

"We've also invested millions to better manage the water pressure in our network of pipes, dramatically reducing the number of bursts," Staples said.

The drones have already proved promising and have successfully identified water leaks in rural villages.

Anglian Water hopes that the drones, equipped with a sensor and camera that identify differences in soil temperature that could be caused by leaking pipes, will minimise disruption to its customers by covering large distances in short timeframes.

The temperature differences are analysed by on-site leakage technicians rather than being sent back to the office, which also cuts time and means the repair works can be carried out with greater precision.

“We hate leaks as much as our customers do and we’re determined to keep reducing them. Our targets are already way beyond those of other water companies and we’re always looking for new ways to push things forward,” said Staples.

“The drones have already saved us time and money finding and fixing hard-to-spot leaks. We’ll continue to trial them over the coming months, focusing on leaks in and around Newmarket where our innovation hub, the Shop Window, is based,” she added.

Anglian water said that in 2016 its leakage level was the company’s lowest ever, and also lowest in the UK at less than half the national average rate.

This article was written by Ilari Kauppila, editor at Fluid Handling International