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Leak detection from the skies gets first test

Canal De Provence, South-East France
Canal De Provence, South-East France

An innovative new leak detection method which uses aircraft to survey buried pipes has successfully completed its first test.

The system is designed to spot leaks in expansive rural areas quickly and inexpensively. Aircraft capture infrared images which are then scanned for signs of soil humidity – a sure sign of a subterranean pipe leak.

According to a press release from the WADI project, the test was carried out by WADI partners ONERA and SCP in February 2017. Now, the results of that test are being studied.

Equipped with hyper-spectral and infrared cameras, a Busard aircraft flew over the facilities of the Canal de Provence (SCP) in the South-East of France. The aircraft recorded images of the facilities’ irrigation network, including buried ductile iron pipes. Three locations were captured and recorded by the aircraft’s cameras: Cabardelle (Salon de Provence), Rians (near Aix en Provence) and Valtrède (Martingues).

The three flyovers captured high quality images across the spectrum of infrared: (band III, between 8000 and 12000 nm), SWIR (between 1400 and 3000 nm) and VNIR (between 400 and 1400 nm).

ONERA, the WADI project’s scientific coordinator, is currently analysing the images in order to detect the best infrared wavelength for detecting soil humidity. From this analysis, the team hopes to develop a measurement strategy for future campaigns.

The WADI project was set up to develop an airborne water leak detection surveillance system to provide water utilities information on leaks in water infrastructure outside of urban areas. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme for research, technological development and demonstration. 

Canal De Provence, South-East France