Innovation award for leak spotters

APEM’s aerial surveys reveal leaking water pipes via variations in vegetation growth patterns, for example.

A project to pinpoint underground water leaks using aerial surveys has picked up the trophy for the most innovative use of an existing technology at the Water Industry Achievement Awards.

The initiative, from digital aerial survey specialist APEM and water company United Utilities, involved analysing images taken across a 400 km² area of west Cumbria. Around 100km of buried pipes were located by the surveys, in addition to several leaks which workmen were able to fix.
The Stockport-based firm fitted its survey aircraft with thermal and near infrared sensors to conduct the work for United Utilities. The sensors produced high-resolution images that revealed signs of leaks from buried pipes.
In some instances this was by revealing patterns of more vigorous vegetation growth in certain areas, indicating the presence of water.