The Dutch robotics project, PIRATE, short for Pipe Inspection Robot for AuTonomous Exploration, was launched to make the pipelines of the Dutch gas network more accessible for inspection. Before the project it was only possible to measure gas leaks above ground with sensors, but it was not possible to check which parts of the pipeline might become hazardous in the near future. This meant that it was never possible to discover a leak in the system until after the fact.
The project proposes to develop an inspection system based on the use of small autonomous robots that can scan the existing pipelines from within. These robots have to be able to fit through really narrow pipes and maneuver through tight corners. The idea is that these small pieces of technology should be able to measure deformations of the tubing, as well as detect leaks by sound development heard by the robot’s ultrasonic microscoop.
In the development phase, the PIRATE robot was bound by an electric wire. When the final project is finished, however, it will move around autonomously and on battery power.