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South West Water testing drones for leak detection

13th December 2017

image depicting South West Water uses drone technology

South West Water is working with the University of Exeter to test the use of drone technology and thermal imaging for leak detection.

Laboratory tests of the thermal cameras have proved positive and field-scale trials are planned for 2017. 

The technology works by attaching a thermal sensor to a drone which would then be flown along pipeline routes particularly in rural locations. The thermal sensor can detect differences in soil temperature which could be caused by an escape of water.  

With 18,000kms of pipe, much of it in rural and remote areas, and more than a million service connections to customers the technology could help reduce the cost of leak detection and repair by pinpointing more exactly the location of a leak, particularly in rural locations where traditional methods are less effective. 

South West Water is one of the leading companies for tackling leakage, with performance twice as good as the UK water industry average for water lost per kilometre of main. Leakage has reduced by 40% since the early 1990s and nowadays most visible leaks are repaired with 72 hours.  

Bob Taylor, Director of Drinking Water Services, said: "Water is part of our region's natural capital. It is a precious resource and, especially once it's been treated, we all need to use it wisely and not waste it. Finding a cost-effective method of finding large escapes of treated water has the potential to help save water and make our service more efficient, which is why we're continuing this trial with the university to test the technology on a landscape scale." 


Published: 13 December 2016

Notes to editors

1. South West Water is one of the leading companies for tackling leakage, with 5.5 cubic metres of leaks per kilometre of main compared with an industry average of 9.04 cubic metres per kilometre of main.
2. South West Water drone pilots are fully trained and certificated by the CAA.

For further information please contact:

Press Office
South West Water