Anglian Water claims it is the first water company to trial thermal imaging drones to detect leaking water pipes.
It said that the new technology has already been used to successfully identify leaks in the rural villages of Southery and Wissington in Norfolk. The company plans to extend the new technology trial over the coming months.
Anglian sends out drones fitted with sensors and cameras to identify soil temperature differences which can be caused by water leaks. These differences are then investigated on the ground by leakage technicians.
Anglian Water has nearly 39,000km of water pipe to look after, much of it in rural and remote areas. It hopes the airborne technology will help cut cost and time taken to find leaks and pinpoint their location more precisely by spotting changes in soil temperature near the water pipes.
“The drones are just the latest weapon in our £60M war on leakage,” said an Anglian Water spokesperson.
“We’re testing other high-tech tyools 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.They 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.”
The company said that last year its leakage level was its lowest-ever – and the lowest in the country, at less than half the national average.
Staples added: “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.
“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.
“Leading on leakage reduction is what our customers told us they wanted. It’s the right thing to do for them and the environment. It also helps to increase of region’s resilience to drought.”
The drones will also help Anglian Water minimise disruption for customers, by covering large distances in a short space of time. “All of this means the job can be carried out quicker and more precisely – meaning less digging, less money, less water lost and less disruption to customers,” said Staples.