Publications / 2003 Proceedings of the 20th ISARC, Eindhoven, Holland

Explorer: Untethered Real-Time Gas Main Assessment Robot System

Hagen Schempf, George Vradis
Pages 471-476 (2003 Proceedings of the 20th ISARC, Eindhoven, Holland, ISBN 978-90-6814-574-8, ISSN 2413-5844)

With funding from the NorthEast Gas Association (NGA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and NASA, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has developed Explorer, a long range, un-tethered, modular inspection robot for the visual inspection of 6” and 8” natural gas distribution system pipelines. The robot can be launched into the pipeline under live conditions utilizing a commercial no-blow system via a specially designed attachment, and can negotiate diameter changes, 45-deg and 90-deg bends and tees, as well as inclined and vertical pieces of the piping network. The modular design of the system allows it to be expanded in the near future to include additional inspection and/or repair tools. The range of the robot is an order of magnitude higher than present state-of-the-art inspection systems and is expected to fundamentally alter the way gas utilities maintain and manage their systems. A prototype system has been built, and is undergoing extensive laboratory system testing prior to scheduled field demonstrations, expected for the summer and fall of 2003. This paper will describe the overall engineering design and functionality of the design, as well as present preliminary laboratory testing demonstration (a video of the system in operation will be shown at the conference).

Keywords: gas pipeline, robot, inspection, wireless, untethered, segmented, modular, live operation.