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Drone tech aids Seqwater’s water condition assessment

Scheduling maintenance for assets can be an expensive exercise for utilities with large amounts of infrastructure, but one Queensland utility has applied drone technology to assist with reservoir condition assessments.

Presenting on Seqwater’s treated water reservoir condition assessment program at the upcoming Ozwater’18 conference, Seqwater Improvement Officer Andrea Clement said drone technology offers greater assessment coverage.

“The knowledge of the overall condition of our assets, including sanitary protection features like roof, hatches, breathers, seals and overflows, is extremely important and we need to keep a close eye on them,” she said.

“We need to monitor their condition to make sure features have full integrity so that our drinking water is protected against any contaminants during transport.

“There are various well-known incidents reported internationally, where drinking water quality has been adversely affected due to contaminants. The Salmonella outbreak in Gideon, Missouri, is a good example of how important sanitary protection of reservoirs is.

“Pigeon droppings on the reservoir roof were carried through a gap in the roof hatch frame. There were seven deaths and almost 600 people were affected.”

Clement said utilising drone technology allows for wide-reaching and detailed inspection on reservoirs that are hard to access, which is necessary to ensure the assets are contaminant proof.

“UAV drones provide an excellent tool to overcome access issues. In the past, inspections of vital parts of the reservoirs were time consuming and expensive as inspection teams used mobile cranes to conduct these inspections,” she said.

“UAV drone inspections only take a fraction of time and effort compared with traditional methods. Depending on the size of the reservoir, a drone inspection can take less than one hour.”

While the technology makes assessment quicker and easier, it also offers a dramatic saving on inspection costs.

“During inspections, the asset condition is rated for the purpose of asset performance trending, defects categorisation and to aid in maintenance planning. Categories reach from one to five and condition associated defects have a determined rectification time frame,” Clement said.

“This aids the maintenance planning and ensures a cost effective maintenance and renewals program.”

According to Clement, while drone technology can’t replace all inspection requirements, it works to strengthen maintenance strategies, particularly in the case of emergency inspections following storms or other extreme weather events.

“We are currently exploring the possibilities of extending the drone use after weather events. We have over 70 reservoirs; it’s just a lot easier to deploy a drone to check there is no damage. It’s a very effective process to deal with.”

Register for Ozwater’18 to hear more about the latest utility applications of drone technology.

Do you have drone technology you would like to showcase to the water sector? Why not exhibit in the new Drone Zone at Ozwater.