Leak detection in water supply pipes using drone-borne sensor technology

According to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, the average loss in the Danish water supply system is about 6%. Because water supply pipes are buried at a depth of ca. 1-1.2 m, in-situ assessment of suspected leaks is costly and often not efficient. Finding a cost-effective and efficient method to locate leaks in water supply systems is thus an engineering challenge that is both technically and commercially interesting. With the advent of UAV (Unmanned Airborne Vehicle) sensing technology, good spatial coverage can be achieved at a relatively low cost.

The SMEs DroneInspektion and DroneSystems have a successful record of selling UAV-borne thermal surveying solutions to the operators of the Danish district heating systems. The service envisaged here is in many ways similar to their existing business model.

The SMEs, in collaboration with four Danish water utilities and researchers from DTU Environment and DTU Compute, aim to investigate if there is a viable UAV-borne sensing technique able to locate leaks in buried water supply pipes.
DTU researchers have expertise in hydraulic and hydrological modelling (DTU ENV), UAV-borne environmental surveys (DTU ENV), data mining and data analysis techniques (DTU Compute).

This innovation project, which involves an interdisciplinary group of professionals and research units, can potentially discover how to locate leaks in water supply pipes with UAV-borne sensing technique.