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A new partnership between the CEA and Veolia has made this a reality

A drone on wheels to inspect sewers…?

​The CEA and SARP Veolia have announced the commercialisation of an autonomous inspection tool known as the PREDIRE drone. PREDIRE was born of a research and development project launched in 2014 between the CEA and SARP Veolia, the group’s subsidiary specialised in sewerage system maintenance. It is an autonomous robot that can cover up to 1.2 kilometres per day through sewers with a diameter of 20 to 30 cm, which accounts for 70% of wastewater systems in France. PREDIRE takes high-definition photos every 10 seconds that produce a quick and reliable pre-assessment to recommend maintenance (cleaning) or regulated inspection services across the entire system. 

Published on 26 September 2018

Sewerage systems are primarily made up of small-diameter underground pipes and any inspections require significant technical resources, with HD video embedded in mobile systems that can withstand hostile environments. These sewerage systems can only been cleaned using heavy, cumbersome devices fitted with high-pressure, high-power pumps. However, effective preliminary pipe inspections could provide immediate checks and be used to implement true predictive maintenance.

"The drone on wheels was developed by engineers and researchers at CEA-List, an institute of CEA Tech, on the basis of on-the-ground recommendations from SARP Veolia. Its optimised mechanical design and specially developed instrumentation and control software allow it to analyse its environment and move optimally no matter what condition the pipe is in." Its propulsion system is based on the principle of the Archimedean screw (spiral screw) so it can move across various terrains (e.g. mud, grease, sand). This particularly innovative concept is protected by two patents.

PREDIRE can inspect pipes while they are in use and establish preliminary assessments for wastewater systems in an unknown condition in order to develop a targeted maintenance action plan. It plays a key role in SARP Veolia's drive to digitalise wastewater and sewerage professions, with a low-cost operational solution to meet the needs of municipalities and unions, who regularly carry out system inspections to schedule maintenance.

"The PREDIRE drone is an iterative design that originated from an expression of needs, with no preconceived expectations about the solution to be put into action. It is now an inspection system ready for commercial roll-out. It is a true consolidation of our technological expertise," explains Jean-Noël Patillon, Director of CEA-List.  
"The PREDIRE drone is an essential tool for pre-assessing the sewerage systems in which we work daily. It will give our clients a real competitive edge. We are proud to have taken part in this joint research project with the CEA, which has once again demonstrated our constant quest for innovation in environmental services," says Frédéric Le-Bouguenec, Director of Innovation at SARP.

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