Using remote sensing technology to identify water leaks

APEM’s digital aerial surveys are a quick and cost-effective way to identify and locate leaks, and map pipe routes for both clean water and wastewater networks.

This pioneering technique was developed by our remote sensing team in partnership with a major UK water company. The project’s success was recognised with a Water Industry Achievement Award for Innovation.

How aerial surveys detect pipe leaks

APEM have developed a unique approach using digital aerial surveys designed specifically for leakage mapping for the water industry.

Our ‘leakage sensors’ can detect leaking pipes – above and below ground – quickly and over very large areas. Using aircraft mounted with state-of-the-art camera systems, the surveys collect both high resolution multi-spectral images and thermal data.

Specialist software is then used to spot the tell-tale signs of potential leaks using two specialist techniques. Water from leaking pipes can cause nearby vegetation to grow more vigorously and our specialist cameras are able to detect this. At the same time, we also gather thermal images that help to show the difference in temperature between wet ground and the surrounding land.

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The benefits of aerial surveys

This innovative use of aerial surveys helps to locate pipe leaks efficiently over large areas. It also helps water companies to target the efforts of ground teams to where they are most needed, making it a time- and cost-effective solution.

Aerial surveys can cover large, remote or inaccessible areas with very little disturbance to people or wildlife, avoiding the need to secure permission from landowners to access their land. In addition, because aerial surveys cover large areas quickly, they can capitalise on optimum weather windows.

The maps we produce can be held in GIS and a series of surveys can show changes over time. The data generated by the surveys can then be used for other projects and for health and safety assessments on subsequent ground visits.


Related content

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