Service robots for inspection and maintenance of tanks, tubes, pipes, and sewers

Service robots are becoming increasingly popular in various industries due to their ability to perform tasks that would otherwise be too dangerous or difficult for humans. One such industry is the inspection and maintenance of tanks, tubes, pipes, and sewers. These robots can help reduce the risk of injury to workers by performing inspections and maintenance tasks in hazardous environments. In addition, they can also help reduce costs associated with manual labor by performing tasks more quickly and efficiently than humans.

What Are Service Robots?

Service robots are autonomous machines designed to carry out specific tasks in a variety of industries. They are typically equipped with sensors that allow them to navigate their environment and detect objects or obstacles in their path. They may also be equipped with cameras or other devices that allow them to inspect objects or areas that would otherwise be inaccessible to humans.

The most common type of service robot used for inspection and maintenance is the wall-climbing robot. These robots are designed to climb walls and ceilings in order to access hard-to-reach areas such as pipes or tanks. They are usually equipped with cameras that allow them to take pictures or videos of the area they are inspecting.

Benefits of Using Service Robots for Inspection and Maintenance

Using service robots for inspection and maintenance has several benefits that make them an increasingly popular choice for businesses across various industries. One of the most significant advantages is that service robots can access areas that may be too dangerous or challenging for humans to reach. In industries such as oil and gas, nuclear power, and chemical plants, where hazardous environments are a significant concern, using robots to perform inspections and maintenance tasks can be a game-changer. By using robots to access and navigate these environments, companies can keep their employees safe while still ensuring that their facilities are properly maintained.

Another advantage of using service robots for inspection and maintenance is speed. Robots can complete inspections much faster than humans, and they don’t require breaks or rest periods. This means that inspections can be completed more quickly, which can lead to significant cost savings for businesses. Additionally, because robots don’t get tired or distracted like humans, they can provide more accurate results. This accuracy can help prevent costly repairs down the line, as problems can be detected and addressed before they cause significant damage.

Using service robots can also help reduce workplace injuries. Traditional inspection and maintenance methods often require workers to enter hazardous environments, putting them at risk of injury or illness. By using robots instead, companies can keep their workers out of harm’s way while still ensuring that their facilities are properly maintained.

Service robots can be customized to fit specific needs, making them a versatile solution for various industries. Customization options can include cameras and sensors to detect leaks, corrosion, and other issues. These robots can also be designed to navigate through tight spaces, climb walls and even work underwater. This flexibility and adaptability make service robots an ideal solution for a range of applications.

Types of Service Robots Used for Inspection and Maintenance

There are several types of service robots available on the market today that can be used for inspection and maintenance tasks such as tank cleaning, pipe inspection, leak detection, etc.. Some examples include:

Wall-Climbing Robots: Wall-climbing robots are designed specifically for inspecting walls and ceilings in order to access hard-to-reach areas such as pipes or tanks. These robots are designed to access hard-to-reach areas such as pipes or tanks, making them incredibly useful for maintenance and inspection purposes. Equipped with cameras, these robots provide a detailed view of the area being inspected, allowing for a better analysis of any potential problems or areas of concern. The ability of wall-climbing robots to navigate difficult spaces makes them an invaluable tool for industries such as construction or manufacturing. With their impressive capabilities, it's clear that wall-climbing robots are paving the way for innovation in the world of robotics.

  • Facade cleaning robots are revolutionizing the way we clean our buildings. These robots are designed to provide high-performance, accurate cleaning with easy handling and low-costs. They can be used for a variety of tasks, from solar panel cleaning to facade cleaning. One example is the GEKKO Facade Robot, which is designed for high-performance and accurate cleaning. It has an easy-to-use interface and is cost-effective. Clean-Kong is another example of a facade cleaning robot that can be used for advanced building facade maintenance. It was developed by Erylon (France) for the cleaning & hygiene and smart building industries. SIRIUS is the world's first facade cleaning robot for high-rise buildings. It combines all the necessary components such as robot engineering, computer vision, artificial intelligence, and robotics to make it effective in its job. The IndiBOT SkyWASH Robot Facade Cleaner Series can clean all kinds of glass facades, ACP Penal, marble, cladding and other cemented facades. Unmanned High-Rise Façade Cleaning Robots are composed of two degrees of freedom robotic manipulators and a cleaning device that sprays a cleaning solution on the surface being cleaned. Finally, KR AGILUS is a window cleaner developed by Skyline Robotics that combines KUKA's KR AGILUS robot with a computerized vision system to automate the window-cleaning task. Facade cleaning robots have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their ability to provide efficient and accurate results with minimal effort required from humans. As technology continues to evolve, these robots will become even more advanced in their capabilities and will continue to revolutionize how we clean our buildings.
  • Solar energy is becoming an increasingly popular source of renewable energy, and with it comes the need for efficient solar panel cleaning. There are several companies that offer robotic solutions to clean solar panels. SolarCleano provides a fast, efficient, and lightweight robot for installations up to 25°. Clean Solar Solutions is the only UK-based company that owns and sells solar panel cleaning robots. Airtouch Solar has developed a unique method for cleaning solar panels without water, using a vertical top-to-bottom motion on each panel. HELIOS is a fully automated solar panel cleaning service composed of autonomous cleaning robots developed by Belgian clean-tech startup ART robotics. Müller Solar also offers utility solar panel robotic cleaning services nationwide. These robots can increase the efficiency of solar panels by removing dust and debris from their surfaces, allowing them to absorb more sunlight and generate more energy. They are also able to access hard-to-reach areas that manual cleaners may not be able to reach. Additionally, they are often faster than manual cleaners, reducing labor costs and time spent on maintenance.
  • Pipe Cleaning Robots: Pipe cleaning robots are designed specifically for cleaning sewer pipes from inside without requiring manual entry into the pipe itself which is often dangerous due to hazardous gases present inside the pipe system . With hazardous gases present in the pipe system, manual entry is not only risky but also inefficient. Pipe cleaning robots eliminate the need for human intervention as they scrub away debris while taking pictures or videos of any damages present inside the pipe system. These features allow for a more thorough and accurate cleaning process. The use of pipe cleaning robots ensures a safer, more efficient, and effective cleaning experience, ultimately contributing to better public health and safety.
  • Leak Detection Robots: Leak detection robots use specialized sensors in order to detect leaks within a pipe system without requiring manual entry into the pipe itself . By using specialized sensors, these robots are able to detect leaks within a pipe system without the need for manual entry, making the detection process safer and more efficient. The sensors work by measuring pressure changes within the pipe, allowing the robot to identify even the smallest of leaks before they become major issues. With their ability to detect leaks early on, these robots are a crucial tool in preventing costly damage and maintaining the integrity of pipe systems. The use of leak detection robots is a clear example of how technology can not only improve efficiency, but also help us to solve complex problems in new and innovative ways.

Other types of tanks, tube, and pipe inspection robots

When it comes to pipe and sewer inspections, cost-benefit considerations and marketing challenges can pose significant obstacles. Currently, a basic sewer TV robot costs around €100,000, while pipe-cleaning equipment can cost up to €250,000. The process requires two skilled human operators, with one operator inserting the robot and operating the cable drum winder, and the other operating the video image observer to control the robot's direction and movement.

If any sewer damage is detected, the observer starts the video recorder and notes down the cable pay-out length and sequence number. A variety of manipulators can be used for repairs, and once the maximum cable pay-out length or entry point is reached, the robot is retracted out of the sewer on the cable.

The use of sewer robots can lead to productivity improvements, thanks to their autonomous operation and increased mobility. This allows for longer working periods without resetting, resulting in a more rapid and economical cleaning process. Additionally, robots can be used for mapping the sewer system, making information easily accessible in the event of a leak.

However, the commercial viability of using sewer robots is limited to pipes with diameters of 200-600mm, making it difficult for smaller operators to attain sufficient utilization. For inspections and thickness measurements of tank walls, crawling robots with magnetic wheels are a much safer option, as tank floors are particularly prone to thinning due to corrosion attacks.

Customized inspection solutions for pipes, tubes, and tanks have been developed by many companies, including those that offer maintenance services. Inspection of gas and oil pipes is equally pressing, as demonstrated by a 2017 study that used a tele-operated robotic device to inspect a 40-year branch of the Trans-Alaska pipeline system at the Valdez terminal, providing real-time data for pipes with diameters ranging between 8 and 55 inches (20-140 cm).

Despite these challenges, a study by EFFIROB has demonstrated that robotic sewer inspection costs are lower than conventional alternatives, and amortization is still possible within the service life. This makes a high level of market acceptance for service robot solutions likely, particularly in urban regions with an area of over three km².

Inuktun Services, owned by Eddyfi Technologies, offers a range of innovative tank, tube, and pipe inspection robots, including the Nanomag™ and the Magg™. These robots are designed to attach magnetically to metal surfaces and can be used in any orientation, including upside down. Equipped with high-quality cameras, they provide clear images for inspection purposes. In addition, the Variable Geometry Tracked Vehicle (VGTV) is a miniature inspection system with a tether length of up to 100 meters, making it ideal for confined spaces and rugged terrain in various industries, such as search and rescue, nuclear power, and duct inspection.

The robots are uniquely designed with multiple sequential joints, allowing them to follow the tip of the device without the use of prominent elbows. This design has earned recognition and accolades for its innovation. Eelume, a start-up company, is developing an underwater snake robot for inspecting offshore plants and underwater pipelines from the outside.

Sewer inspection and repair systems have been introduced to the market, with most of them being tele-operated tracked or wheeled mobile platforms equipped with cameras, sensors, or simple tools. While most of the inspection systems for tanks, tubes, or pipes are customized solutions, a few prototypes have been developed to inspect vents and ducts of air systems. These systems must navigate sharp inclines, bends, and junctions, making them challenging to design and develop.

The robots developed by Sewer Robotics are designed to navigate through tight spaces, such as pipes and sewers, with ease. They are equipped with powerful cameras that allow them to capture high-resolution images of the inside of pipes and sewers. This enables them to detect any potential problems or blockages before they become serious issues. Furthermore, these robots can also be used to clean out debris from the pipes and sewers, ensuring that they remain free from clogs or other obstructions.

Sewer Robotics' robots are also equipped with sensors that allow them to detect any potential hazards in the environment. For example, they can detect gas leaks or other hazardous materials in the air around them. This ensures that workers remain safe while performing their duties in potentially hazardous environments. Additionally, these robots can be programmed to perform specific tasks such as cleaning out debris from pipes or performing inspections on a regular basis.

The use of robots for sewer maintenance is becoming increasingly popular due to its cost-effectiveness and efficiency compared to traditional methods of maintenance. By using robots instead of manual labor, companies can save time and money while still providing quality service for their customers. Furthermore, these robots can help reduce safety risks associated with working in hazardous environments by providing an extra layer of protection for workers who may otherwise be exposed to dangerous conditions without proper protection.

Numerous manufacturers offer solutions for HVAC equipment, with tele-operated robotic devices being the most commonly used. These devices are designed to clean and inspect air-conditioning ducts, kitchen and industrial air vents, and any spaces where cleaning is challenging or impossible without dismantling. The robotic devices can easily pass through, inspect, and clean circular, rectangular, or square-shaped ducts, and are operational in horizontal, vertical, or sloping ducting, including C-turns.

AI and ML for Inspection and Maintance Robots

Another notable development in autonomous inspection robotics is the use of machine learning algorithms to analyze data obtained from inspections. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) allows robots to learn from previous inspections, enabling them to improve their accuracy and reliability over time. This, in turn, could lead to faster and more efficient inspections, minimizing downtime and reducing maintenance costs.

In addition to AI, robotics developers are also investigating the use of innovative locomotion systems for inspection robots. For example, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a robot snake that can climb pipes and even swim through water to inspect underwater infrastructure. The snake robot has a unique serpentine design, allowing it to navigate through narrow and curved spaces with ease.


Service robots have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their ability perform inspections faster than humans while providing more accurate results at a lower cost . They also offer several safety benefits since they don’t require workers enter hazardous environments like traditional methods do . With all these benefits , it’s no wonder why service robots have become so popular among businesses looking improve efficiency while reducing costs .