Robots for In-pipe inspection are a thriving research topic in the industry and the robotics community. There is a growing interest in developing new solution for inspecting pipes in nuclear reactor, fusion machines, particle accelerators, etc. Most of the COTS solutions can operate in large diameter pipes, from 100 mm onwards. However, there is a lack of solutions for small sized pipes and new research would be needed in this area.
From the commercially ready inspection devices, the videoscopes are the most suitable solution for inspecting a piping circuit with a diameter smaller than 100 mm. Some of them present a diameter perfectly compatible even with DN8 although the available lengths could be the limitation.
In the field of pipe inspection robots, the smaller device is the developed by Honeybee Robotics. Honeybee develop bespoke solutions for individual problems. Their system uses a patent-pending magnetic Mecanum wheel technology to navigate into the annular space between the pipeline and casing. Operators can then navigate the vehicle and get real-time images of the pipe for pre-excavation inspection, or as an alternative to excavation. This little inspection tethered robot can get into a 2 inch pipe to perform visual inspection and provide visual feedback to the operator.
The problem arises when inspecting non-ferrous or non-magnetic pipes where their system cannot work. However, they are also developing other type of locomotion, more adequate for these environments.