Jacobs to work with Thames Water to develop robotic ‘no dig repair’ technology for wider industry

Thames Water has engaged Jacobs to develop new technology that can fix leaks on water mains without the need to dig a hole.

It is understood the technology will take the form of a robotically driven repair instrument small enough to travel inside water pipes. As well as Jacobs, Thames Water’s contract award notice also stated that it will work with Synthotech, which supplies engineering solutions for utilities, including live CCTV systems and in-pipe robotics.

The notice stated that leakages represent “a problem costing the UK and international water companies millions of pounds each year as well the cost, disruption and environmental impact of road works”. It said the solution is expected to be an in-pipe device capable of live insertion and retrieval via standard fittings on drinking water networks, such as hydrants.

“The device would need to travel a distance through the water main, locate and characterise the failure, and effect a local repair - without the need to interrupt the supply,” the notice stated.

Jacobs’ appointment by the UK’s largest water and waste company will see "No Dig Leak Repair Technology" submitted to the Ofwat Innovation Fund, a £200M fund to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovate.

The notice indicates that the development of the new technology will require input across capabilities including engineering, robotics and the science and academic sector, with a consortium suggested as the appropriate delivery pathway.

As prime contractor, Jacobs will have responsibility for managing the consortium from the initial research and development phase, through to the build and test phase of the prototype, designated as phase 2 of the project. Phase 3 will see the implementation of the best solution on the Thames Water network.

Thames Water is hoping that the outcome of the project will see the new technology widely adopted across UK water sector. It has confirmed it plans to partner with the other UK water companies to develop the technology to fix leaks on water mains without the need to dig a hole.

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