Drones recruited into helping fight the “war on leaks” by Anglian Water

Sam Johnson and Andy Funnell operating the drone for Anglian Water. Picture Mustard TV

Sam Johnson and Andy Funnell operating the drone for Anglian Water. Picture Mustard TV - Credit: Archant

Drones are being deployed in a pioneering move from Anglian Water to pinpoint the source of leaks in their vast network of pipes.

Thermal images from the drone being used for Anglian Water. Picture: Mustard TV

Thermal images from the drone being used for Anglian Water. Picture: Mustard TV - Credit: Archant

With an investment of £17m this year alone, the company has said they are 'waging war on leaks'.

By joining forces with drone company Vertex Air, Anglian Water technicians are able to scour miles of pipes in the vicinity of an invisible leak and pinpoint it within minutes.

In total Anglian Water repair around 29,000 leaks every year, but the latest initiative is designed to save time and money.

Sam Johnson, director of Vertex Air, said two major leaks have recently been located within half an hour using the technology.

The drone being used for Anglian Water. Picture Mustard TV

The drone being used for Anglian Water. Picture Mustard TV - Credit: Archant


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'We fly an unmanned aerial vehicle with a thermal imaging camera attached to find hidden leaks in the pipe-work,' he said. 'Water travels at around 10C and the ambient temperature today is around 2C. The camera can pick up where the water is escaping from the pipe to the surface. 'Where there is a leak there will be a hotspot and we will be able to pinpoint where the water is escaping.'

The former option would include digging up huge sections of road to locate the leak.

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Andy Funnell, intensive leakage investigation technician for Anglian Water, said: 'Before we would have to have dug holes somewhere along that length, squeeze it off and find out exactly what section of the pipe the leak was in. 'That is very labour intensive. We would have to have people here all day digging holes all over the place just to locate it. 'This will pinpoint exactly where we want to be. We can find the hidden leaks the customer doesn't even see, but are costing us money. 'I think Anglian Water are leading the way on this. We are the first to accept this technology, trial it and find that it works.'

Sarah Dobson, media officer for Anglian Water, added: 'We are waging a war on leakage. 'We are investing £17m this year just on fixing thesehard to find leaks. Last year we found and fixed 7,000 of these before customers even knew about them and in total we repair 29,000 leaks every single year.'

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