Menu

You are here

GE unveils robotic pipeworm that eliminates fatbergs and navigates the darkest of pipelines

  • 29 March 2022
  • ckearns

Shayla Colon
March 10, 2022

NISKAYUNA – General Electric researchers are urging fatbergs to beware as their new robot has the power to eliminate these pesky clumps of waste that can gather in grungy sewer tracks. 

GE’s research team created the tool, which they call a pipeworm – short for Programmable Worm for Irregular Pipeline Exploration – as part of a collaboration with the U. S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop advanced tunneling technology for underground networks. 

The pipeworm, made of kevlar fibers and rubber, proved valuable during a recent demonstration when it was able to travel over 100 meters of piping, navigating a series of twists and turns without disrupting operations and able to clear out chunks of solid waste.

The device can be used for pipeline inspections, monitoring and repairs, in addition to having military applications, a GE news release noted. The company also hopes to used pared-down versions of the worm to inspect smaller spaces and conduits for underground fiber optic cables that foster Internet connections.

Although it looks like a couple of tubes joined by metal brackets, Deepak Trivedi, a soft robotics expert who led the project, said the pipeworm is a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics that can travel through dark pipelines.

 “This AI-enabled autonomous robot has the ability to inspect and potentially repair pipelines all on its own, breaking up the formation of solid waste masses like fatbergs that are an ongoing issue with many of our nation’s sewer systems,” he said. 

The researchers attached cockroach-like whiskers to the apparatus that detect changes in the environment whether it be a shift in altitude or diameter and create a map of the pipeline in real time.

GE’s robotics and autonomy team is further exploring potential ways to use the worm in power turbine or jet engine inspections and repairs. 

“GE’s pipeworm takes the concept of the plumber’s drain snake to a whole new level,” Trivedi said. 

Article Source: https://www.timesunion.com/business/article/GE-unveils-robotic-pipeworm-that-eliminates-16988914.php

Category: 

Archives