March 2022 Vol. 77 No. 3

Rehab Technology

Rehab Technology: 5 Questions to Help Municipalities Choose the Right Utility Inspection Equipment

By Patrick Iyonsi, utility inspection product manager, Subsite

Out of sight, out of mind. This is the general population’s stance towards the 2 million miles of underground pipe in the United States and even more around the world. 

And rightfully so. As a service provided and supported by municipalities, residents and other community members expect and depend on this infrastructure to work properly every day, without having to think twice about it. 

Municipalities, therefore, need to know the condition of underground utilities to ensure they are reliably providing this essential service to their communities. This involves regular inspection to ensure the correct maintenance and rehabilitation is happening to keep this crucial infrastructure working properly and reduce issues, such as root intrusion or collapsed pipes. 

To accomplish this, municipalities need to have the right tools and methods at every stage of the inspection process. But with an abundance of factors to consider – inspection length, pipe size, flow and equipment options – it’s not always easy. 

Answering a few questions upfront can facilitate the process and ensure pipes and operations keep flowing. 

What are the working conditions? 

The first step is evaluating how equipment will be used. For underground inspection, there are four key factors to consider. 

Number one is the length and type of the inspection. A short lateral inspection requires a much different cable than a long mainline inspection. 

Second is the diameter of the pipe, which determines the size, weight, power and length of the equipment needed. 

Third is the expected flow of the pipe. For inspectors, this is the basis for selecting among the different cables, transporters, cameras and accessories available. For example, large-diameter pipes may warrant larger-diameter wheels to ensure the camera is capable of staying centered in the pipe. 

Another important condition is the required abrasion quality of the cable. If the pipe is collapsed, or debris is stuck in it, contractors can rest assured a higher abrasion-resistant cable will meet the toughest conditions and be able to finish the job. 

What equipment functions will help increase efficiency? 

After reviewing the working conditions, the next question is what equipment functions are needed to complete a thorough inspection efficiently. With hundreds of options to customize equipment, it can be overwhelming to know which features are most-needed. A good place to start is with the equipment that makes the inspection possible – the camera. 

The camera functions needed depend on whether it’s a lateral or mainline inspection. For a lateral inspection, it’s important to know the type of camera head, such as self-leveling, needed Another consideration is whether the total length of the camera and transporter allows maneuverability within the pipe. In mainlines, the camera needs 360-degree capabilities. 

Regardless of inspection type, the camera must be durable and sealed to endure a submerged environment, thereby reducing downtime and increasing profitability. 

Additionally, numerous camera features, such as lighting, inclination, laser crack measurement and other options, can be selected and customized, based on the inspection needs. 

Once the right camera is determined, other needed equipment functions can be reviewed to complete an inspection efficiently, such as traction, steering and elevator capabilities. 

What cable features will help minimize downtime and costs? 

It’s no secret that utility inspection equipment is an investment. While the camera and transporter make the inspection happen, the cable is the lifeline. When considering what cable to use, it is important to keep in mind that the higher the break strength, the lower the chances the cable will break, leaving equipment in the pipe. 

Selecting a cable with high break strength and abrasion resistance saves additional time, money and resources needed to retrieve equipment due to a broken cable. It also gives peace of mind knowing that valuable equipment will be returned at the end of the day. 

Even with high abrasion resistance and break strength, cable wear and damage can occur when working in unknown conditions. Therefore, it is important to choose a cable that can be reterminated in the field. Conversely, having to ship equipment back to the manufacturer for repairs or specialized tools, will inevitably increase downtime. 

How can setup and teardown time be reduced? 

Inspectors are only getting paid while inspecting. Setup and teardown are key factors when considering any equipment for a job, in order to gain efficiencies during this time. 

When an inspector pulls up to the job the first thing to do is position the vehicle in accordance with local governance to not impede traffic, but close enough for a successful launch into the pipe. The next step is to identify the diameter of the pipe and configure the transporter accordingly. 

Once the configuration is complete, connect the cable to the camera and transporter. At this point, cautiously insert the equipment into the pipe to begin the inspection and start getting paid. 

When an inspection is complete, it’s time to exit the pipe and begin teardown. If the transporter is capable, select freewheel and utilize the cable winch to efficiently retract the equipment. Once topside, simply wash down the cable and equipment, and disconnect the cable from the camera and transporter, before securing the equipment for the drive to the next job. 

By gaining efficiencies during setup and teardown, inspectors can increase time on the job and, ultimately, profitability. 

Does the equipment have multifunction capabilities? 

Multifunction capabilities allow the camera and transporter to function simultaneously so pipe inspection can continue while driving, increasing productivity. With multifunction capabilities, like pan, tilt and zoom, the pipe can also be inspected quickly. If anything questionable is viewed, the process can be stopped and focused on the area of concern. 

Right equipment 

For every inspection, regardless of specific conditions and needs, equipment must be able to excel, even in the toughest jobs. Combining high-quality, robust equipment with answers to the questions above leads to quickly and efficiently assessing pipe conditions and determining the appropriate course of action – whether that be maintenance or rehabilitation. 

Ultimately, that ensures the underground infrastructure the community depends on is reliable.

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