Pipebots Demonstration Event

Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2024

Wednesday 5th June 2024

The seventh Pipebots Industry workshop took place at NBIF at the University of Birmingham on Wednesday 5th June 2024. The event ran over 2 separate sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During the demonstration event, participants were invited to view a number of technical demonstrations. The aim of the workshop was to demonstrate the latest Pipebots technology and obtain valuable input and feedback from our industry partners. The event was very well attended, with over 50 industry and external participants joining the demonstrations in Birmingham.

The day kicked off with Programme Director, Professor Kirill Horoshenkov welcoming participants to the event and presenting an overview of the Pipebots programme. In his presentation, Kirill presented the Pipebots timeline and explained how the different research themes are addressing the research challenges including sensing, autonomous control, navigation, ruggedisation and how the team are working together to integrate the technology developed in Pipebots.

Kirill introduced the different demonstrations which took place at the NBIF facility, and invited participants to visit each of the demonstrations accompanied by a ‘Pipebots Group Leader’.

Technology demonstrations

There were a number of demonstrations to showcase the latest Pipebots technology, these included: Autonomy, Manoeuvrability and Localisation, Ruggedisation, Communication, Sensing, Localisation and Mapping and a demonstration of the Benefits of Autonomous Mobile Sensors.

The Autonomy, Manoeuvrability and Localisation demonstration was focussed on a specially constructed layout of buried pipes with four manholes.  This showcased the operation of both the Skatebot and Kanga robots, the network was supplemented with CCTV cameras to allow participants a good view of the Pipebots operating. There was also a presentation on mapping using data collected by robots.

The second demonstration had several themes, firstly showcasing ruggedisation of the robotics with the Aquajoey, which as the name suggests can operate underwater and also the robot developed by Synthotech as part of the sister OfWat project “Pipebots for Rising Mains”.  This demonstration also included a dashboard demonstration which is a vision of how data from Pipebots could be displayed to the pipe owners and included data provided from Pipebots research.

The third demonstration showcased Sensing, Localisation and Mapping.  This included a sensing robot incorporating both acoustic and ultrasonic sensors, the acoustic sensors provided a long range image of the pipe ahead, allowing the robot to autonomously drive along the 6 m long pipe to a blockage identified by the acoustic sensors, and which the ultrasonic sensor was able to scan and provide a higher level of information, including the blockage size.  A second part of this demonstration used a richer ultrasonic array which is able to provide enhanced imaging of in pipe defects.  This demonstration also included a presentation on localisation using data collected in live storm sewer on the University of Sheffield campus.  Data from a camera and acoustics were shown to be complimentary in estimating the robot’s location, with a fusion of the two data sources able to record the robot’s location with a peak error under 0.4 m in a 30 m test.  A short addition showed a collaboration with Opteran, where their bio-inspired Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping technology was tested in a pipe environment.

The final demonstration showed work to prove and realise the benefits of autonomous mobile sensors.  This demonstration started with a newly produced animation which has been developed to focus on the direct benefits of autonomous robotic sensing for the water industry.  Three posters were then presented which showed work on: comparing data from static and mobile sensors in a simulation environment; the development on Customer Oriented Performance Indices which allow the identification of locations which would have a significant impact on network performance as experienced by the customer, thus helping to prioritise inspection; and finally using data on previous failures, asset characteristics and external factors to understand which parameters are more influential and that can be included in models to predict the probability of defect occurrence at a pipe level and hence further prioritise inspection.

After visiting the demonstrations and talking to the Pipebots team, it was time for refreshments and networking opportunities at the School of Engineering where participants were invited to complete surveys on the demonstrations they had seen that day.


The demonstrations were very well received and participants gave detailed comments and feedback both on the day and via surveys completed by participants. This has been extremely valuable and helpful for the Pipebots team. Overall the event was a huge success thanks to the hard work of the Pipebots team and the enthusiasm and contributions from workshop participants. We are very grateful for the continued support and collaboration with new and existing stakeholders.

Contact us

For more information or to get involved with Pipebots, please contact:

Prof. Kirill Horoshenkov (Programme Director) k.horoshenkov@sheffield.ac.uk

Aisling Cooling (Programme Grant Manager) a.m.cooling@sheffield.ac.uk