Several millions of kilometres of pipes and cables are buried beneath our streets in the UK. As they are not visible and easily accessible, the monitoring of their integrity as well as the quality of their contents is a challenge. Any information of these properties aids the utility owners in their planning and management of their maintenance regime. Traditionally, expensive and very localised sensors are used to provide irregular measurements of these properties. In order to have a complete picture of the utility network, cheaper sensors need to be investigated which would allow large numbers of small sensors to be incorporated into (or near to) the pipe leading to so-called smart pipes. This paper focuses on a novel trial where a short section of a prototype smart pipe was buried using mainly off-the-shelf sensors and communication elements. The challenges of such a burial are presented together with the limitations of the sensor system. Results from the sensors were obtained during and after burial indicating that off-the-shelf sensors can be used in a smart pipes system although further refinements are necessary in order to miniaturise these sensors. The key challenges identified were the powering of these sensors and the communication of the data to the operator using a range of different methods.
- smart pipes
- smart technology
- intelligent water distribution networks
- structural monitoring