Between 20% and 40% of all the drinking water transported in pipeline systems worldwide is lost as a result of obsolete infrastructures. Even with annual investment in Europe running at around €45 billion, it would take no fewer than 160 years for a local authority to replace its water supply system completely.
The robot developed by ACWA Robotics, an innovative wonder that combines mechanical and electronic engineering with artificial intelligence, solves this problem. This robot can travel through thousands of miles of pipes without interrupting water flow as it gathers data on the pipeline condition and potential future failures. On emerging from the pipeline, all the data are uploaded to a program that provides water supply companies with an overview detailing the condition of their systems and pinpointing damaged sections so that they can be repaired before any leak occurs. So the system maintenance budget is spent where it is really needed, and any wastage of valuable water efficiently avoided.
Category: Resilient Infrastructures
The three partners of the ACWA Robotics management team are: Technical director and underwater robotics expert Jean-François Rossi, head of business development Jean-François Guiderdoni, and automation and control systems specialist René Amoretti. They are assisted by 3D production manager Raphaël, mechanical engineer Elie and mechatronics engineer Ismaïl.
During our respective professional careers, we’ve often found ourselves working alongside local and regional authorities on issues relating to water management. So we’ve seen at first hand the chronic problem of water supply system losses and the escalating budgets allocated to system upgrading. It was these experiences, combined with warnings from scientists about future shortages of drinking water, that sparked the idea of Acwa Robotics.
What are the most recent developments for your start-up?
In terms of products, we’ve just completed the prototype of our first robot, which we call the ‘Crawler’: it can move through pipes with diameters of 20 cm and above and will begin its testing campaign with the Régie des Eaux de Bastia (the water supply company for Bastia on the island of Corsica) in the next few months.
In terms of business, we've just secured the presence of Région Sud Investissement at our first funding round. Before that, we had financed our developpement by being a double winner of the Ilab and Innov 2019 innovation competitions.
What’s been the most unexpected thing that’s happened as a result of the start-up?
Completing the mock-up of our first robot in a Bastia workshop at 4 in the morning, and demonstrating it 12 hours later to the French President and his Minister for the Economy in the Elysée Palace. It was certainly stressful and exhausting, but at the same time absolutely unforgettable!
So how does your project revolutionise your category?
Maintaining the drinking water supply infrastructure in good condition means replacing 1.2% of the network every year. Today in Europe, we achieve 0.6%, or barely half of that, despite investing €45 billion every year. The ability to get inside water supply pipes without interrupting the flow of water to collect previously inaccessible data means that the robots produced by Acwa Robotics will revolutionise the current model. The comprehensive, accurate data they will provide will give water supply companies all the information they need to identify precisely where and when they need to intervene to prevent leaks. This will drastically improve upgrade project performance and increase the total volume of water supplied. Looking further into the future, Acwa Robotics technology will also pave the way for internal pipeline repairs.