Water company Severn Trent is making “substantial” savings by using drone technology to help it detect leaks earlier.
A team has been created to use drones with thermal imaging, which can detect drops in temperature on land, indicating a below-ground water leak.
They are often used at live leaks to rapidly determine what extra resources or repairs are needed onsite.
And have also been used to photograph and map company sites such as reservoirs and treatment works, carry out dam inspections and even taking photographs for auction sales of water company-owned property.
The drones have been used at most Severn Trent sites already.
Drone lead Duncan Turner, who helped to introduce the drones to Severn Trent, said: “The offset costs of just using drones instead of scaffolding to look at one of our digesters, for instance, creates enormous time and cost savings.
“The areas we have used the drones in has continued to grow – and the annual savings continue to remain substantial.”
Severn Trent, which supplies water to thousands of businesses and homes across Staffordshire and the wider Midlands region, says it is committed to reducing leakage by 15 per cent by 2025 and is aiming to halve the amount of water lost through its network by 2045.
Duncan added: “In urban areas we can use the drones to map out bursts very quickly and relay back pictures and video to an incident room. They can then make very quick decisions on what equipment needs to be sent.
“The drones can fly above hedgerows and treetops, so you can see for miles quite quickly and cover quite a large distance in no time at all.”
Drone Safety Officer Jonny Bevan, who has also used the drones to help spot and survey wildlife on Severn Trent land, said: “Trying to identify a leak on a pipeline that is say 6km long may have taken some time for our teams on the ground to find before. But we can reduce that to a few hours with the drones.
“If we can find these leaks faster and deal with them quicker, that makes things better for customers.”