The robot locates leaks before they seriously damage the infrastructure. Work on plastic and metal pipes without interrupting the water service.

Currently about 20% is wasted of water resources due to leaks in water pipes. While they are located, the infrastructure suffers serious and irreparable damage, which can only be corrected with a new installation. For these reasons, technology is needed to detect them before they become large ruptures.

Professor You Wu designed it as part of his doctoral research project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a robotic device called Robot headlight. It incorporates a touch sensor skirt.

Robot headlight, operation.

When the robot passes a leak in a water pipe, the touch sensors will be carried away by the suction force generated by the leaking water, indicating a leak.

The device works equally well in the system of plastic pipes as well as metal or concrete. It is designed to inspect pipes without interrupting water service and can be placed in fire hoses and three-way fittings.

RobotLighthouse has an advanced analysis system capable of creating a map, which tells pipeline operators where the leaks are, how big they are and what the likelihood of a major failure is.

Current methods of leak detection rely on sound caused by pipe vibrations and pressure drop. But acoustics do not work well in cities due to the high noise levels. Robot Lighthouse is effective in cities and rural areas.

It took Professor You Wu five years to create a fully operational prototype. The current version is a small device, launched in January 2018, shortly after being included in the Forbes 2018 list of “Under 30” in the Manufacturing & Industry category.

You Wu teamed up with college friend Tyler Mantel and they started the business WatchTower Robotics.