SewerScout™- Floating into history on crap

If you didn’t catch the first post on how the hell I ended up in crap check out the post here.


To follow on with the last story on what caused me to build something to get me out the crap I want to tell you more about the missions we completed using our innovative SewerScout™ and how it is a revolutionary tool to inspect sewers.



Figure 1: Founder and CEO Robert Lee hunched over in a combined Sewer using an early mapping device


After many miles of walking through dangerous poop filled pipes the SewerScout™ was developed to remove the need to send people like myself into a sewer. The SewerScout™ is unique as it is an untethered floating sensor platform that goes with the flow. The SewerScout is deployed remotely from an upstream access chamber and is released into a flowing sewer and uses gravity to move it downstream to a safe retrieval location. While it is floating inside the pipe it is collecting crucial 360° HD video of the exposed part of the sewer where most of the corrosion occurs. This data is processed and geolocated using our innovative mapping technology that I will discuss in the next few posts.


Figure 2: Early version of the SewerScout™ being deployed in a hard to access sewer


Our first mission was to inspect a 1 mile stretch of inaccessible sewer that hadn’t been inspected since the 1980’s. The sewer was approximately 3ft in diameter with previous inspections requiring the person to inspect the sewer laying down on a roller mat and push themselves through, and that’s not the dangerous part. Manholes chambers were over 300ft deep in places making any emergency extraction impossible. The sewer intersected hilly and bushy terrain that was inaccessible due to the thick vegetation and shear drops into the creek below and required a 4-wheel drive to get part way to them. Even when we conducted the mission we had to walk our gear in because of treacherous conditions. Luckily the SewerScout™ is a little larger than a basketball and is lightweight for easy carrying. I still can’t believe people used to traverse this sewer. They were built tough back then.


Figure 3: Surprisingly we found the access chamber through all the bush


It took 2 attempts to map this sewer. The first time when we deployed the SewerScout™ we encountered an unmapped 50ft waterfall/ drop so the sewer could flow under a stream. It wasn’t until we reviewed the footage that we identified the vertical drop for our client who was unaware that it existed as it was not on their GIS DataBase. Even though we only captured up to the drop the mission was a success and showed that we were discovering features previously not recorded or unknown.


The second attempt that turned out successful also required a deployment from a large vertical drop from a rusted platform 60ft up. I still remember releasing the SewerScout™ in the flow and watching it go the wrong way. I was like “what the hell?”. The sewer waterfall a little upstream was creating such an eddy that sewage was going upstream. After a minute the SewerScout™ flowed past us and went on it’s merry way. It took just over an hour to capture over 1 mile of data. The Scout was retrieved, data processed and the mission proved that the sewer was in good condition without the need to send anyone in there. Results were viewed and shared through our early version of Terralytics™ below. This was a massive success for both the client and SubterraAI.


Figure 4: Viewing the location of SewerScout™ using our early Terralytics™ platform as it traverse through the in accessible sewer


After several of these missions we started learning how impactful our SewerScout™ and Terralytics™ was for the entire inspection and reporting workflow. Some things that we noticed by deploying our SewerScout™ Include;

  • the reduction in lifting manhole covers;

  • reduction in the need to get traffic permits;

  • reduced letter drops to notify residents of early morning noise and disruptions;

  • reduced human exposure to dangerous sewer working conditions;

  • reduction in overall inspection planning due to simplicity of the system


Figure 5: The number of people needed to conduct a human traverse through a sewer.

(2am in the morning on a Saturday Morning)


We also observed increases in areas noted below:

  • Increased amount of linear foot of inspections for large diameter sewers that had previously gone un-inspected;

  • increased quality of data and viewing angle for large diameter sewer inspections - The SewerScout™ offers a 360° view much like “google streetview”;

  • Enabled the ability to view dangerous large diameter sewers from the safety of an office within a web browser;

  • Enabled the ability to share and view the sewer as a group to make better judgements on what was occurring;

  • Established an objective tool to build sound business cases for repair and remediation works;

  • Established a method to compare condition over time using Terralytics™ analysis.


Figure 6: The SewerScout™ along with an early version of Terralytics


Now the last few points mentioned above were only possible with the introduction of our other product Terralytics™.


Terralytics™ is our cloud based platform that allows clients to review the sewers from any device with a web browser and internet connection. We have embraced cloud computing to reduce the pain for our clients so they no longer need to install software that is either suited for PC or Mac. We wanted to get rid of the need for physical dongles while at the same time increasing the shareability and accessibility of data within an organisation. By embracing the cloud we can easily update the platform without our clients needing to download and reinstall.

In my next post I will discuss more about the Terralytics™ and how its helping our clients.



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