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Automated asset inspection speeds up pipeline repair

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Artificial intelligence is helping to speed up repairs to United Utilities wastewater pipeline network by semi-automating the review of CCTV inspection footage.
Since the use of CCTV for pipeline inspections was first introduced in the 1950s, the process of reviewing footage has remained largely manual – and very time consuming.
The increasing volume of work across the water sector has highlighted the need for modernisation.
Now United Utilities has adopted cutting-edge technology to dramatically speed up the process.
Every year the water company for the north-west of the UK inspects more than 1,000km of pipeline using CCTV cameras – and that generates thousands of hours of footage which has been manually reviewed to check for pipe damage or obstructions which can lead to flooding.
Now the time needed to review footage has been dramatically reduced thanks to a successful partnership forged with VAPAR, an Australian artificial intelligence (AI) company. The partnership was developed through United Utilities’ highly regarded Innovation Lab – which is designed to help new ideas get adopted faster.
VAPAR uses AI to speed up pipeline repairs by semi-automating the fault detection process from inspection footage.
Katy Bevan, programme delivery manager for United Utilities’ wastewater network, said: “VAPAR has truly transformed the way that we work, it provides us with a consistent method of defect coding that equates to a consistent decision-making process on investment.
“It has also massively reduced timescales of both the time needed to review footage and the turnaround time from footage being recorded on site to decisions about cleaning and remedial activities being made. In addition we are also benefiting from lower costs, and the generation of performance management tools to support our targets.”
VAPAR is now being rolled out more widely across United Utilities for use across the entire inspection programme.
Amanda Siqueira, co-founder and CEO of VAPAR added: “We were new to the UK water industry when we joined the Innovation Lab back in 2019. The highly collaborative approach that the United Utilities team adopted in the innovation process was fundamental to creating the impactful product and team that we have today.”






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