Across China: Smart robot designed to repair urban sewage pipelines

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CHONGQING, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- A unique robot made a splash at the just-concluded Smart China Expo 2023 in Chongqing, southwest China. It might be no bigger than a remote-control car, but it has already captured the attention of urban facilities providers.

Floating in the expo's pool, the device, measuring 80 centimeters in length and 20 centimeters in width, seamlessly transmitted images to a sizable screen in real-time.

"This is a floating robot we developed mainly for urban underground sewage pipe network repair," said Liu Jun, smart device project leader of the southwest branch of China Construction Second Engineering Bureau.

Liu likened the underground sewage network to a city's capillaries, supporting the daily operation of the city. Historically, the repair and maintenance of underground sewage networks often called for road excavation, or "major surgery."

"Not only it is time-consuming, but also causes traffic congestion, emissions and other problems," Liu said.

"The floating robot can work in underground environments such as culverts and swamps," Liu said, adding that the robot is designed for drainage pipes of 600 to 3,000 millimeters in diameter.

When the robot enters the pipeline, it activates a 360-degree rotating camera to obtain a panoramic image of the pipeline. The images are displayed in real time, aiding the production of an inspection report, Liu explained.

"It's just the first step in restoration," said Mu Songwen, a technician with the company. "If a problem is identified, we first clean up the pipeline with a sewage suction truck, and then use another robot to do the restoration part."

The new robot will put polymer repair materials on the broken pipeline. It then uses ultraviolet (UV) light curing irradiation to make sure the materials shape quickly in the pipeline. It is like putting a layer of new clothes on the broken wall, Mu said.

According to Mu, the robots can reduce manpower repair time by 80 percent, and cut the cost of pipeline repair by 30 to 40 percent.

"Not only is the repair faster, the results are also better," Mu added.

The floating robot has already been used in many projects in southwest China, such as the Qi River water environment treatment in Chongqing, and bio-city wastewater treatment in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.

The Smart China Expo, held annually in Chongqing since 2018, is a platform to promote global exchanges of smart technologies and international cooperation.

Eighty-four investment projects with contracts worth over 213.8 billion yuan (around 29 billion U.S. dollars) have been signed at the event this year. Enditem

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