NYSEARCH/Northeast Gas Association and Honeybee Robotics Begin New Phase of Pipe Inspection Robot Development

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Design improvements, field tests, and design for manufacturability analysis will advance system for trenchless inspection of cased natural gas transmission lines via vent access

NYSEARCH/Northeast Gas Association (NGA) and Honeybee Robotics are developing and testing a new generation of a pipe inspection robot for cased natural gas transmission lines. This robotic system is designed to provide visual inspection capabilities of the carrier pipe by navigating down existing casing vents, therefore eliminating costly and disruptive excavation. This system will help pipeline operators to comply with Federal and State safety guidelines and assess the condition of transmission lines more quickly and cost-effectively than existing methods.

Since 2011, NYSEARCH/NGA and Honeybee Robotics have developed several prototypes of the pipe inspection robot and field-tested them in infrastructure owned and operated by NYSEARCH/NGA member companies. This new phase of development and testing will advance the design of the navigation system, sensor package, and operator interface to improve navigation and inspection capabilities in the pipeline environment.

“This miniature robot, with NYSEARCH patent pending, is designed to travel through casing systems’ vents and negotiate turns to get inside the annular space of the casing and visualize the full surface of the carrier pipe,” said Daphne D’Zurko, Executive Director, NYSEARCH /VP, RD&D, Northeast Gas Association.

“We look forward to this new development phase to further enhance the design while optimizing the manufacturing costs and inspection capabilities of this innovative system.” “We are excited to support NYSEARCH/NGA and its members by addressing this important inspection challenge in a new phase of development,” said Jason Herman, Vice President of Honeybee Robotics. “This phase will enable us to improve performance in the demanding navigation environment, make the tool even easier for inspection teams to operate, and take steps to scale up production for future commercial use of this unique inspection robot.”

Over the summer and fall of 2014, NYSEARCH/NGA and Honeybee Robotics completed inspection and navigation testing at natural gas transmission sites owned by PG&E and National Grid. The current tethered robot design, incorporating patent-pending drivetrain technology, proved effective at entering a surface-level vent pipe, navigating dozens of feet and around 90-degree elbows in the vent pipe, entering the annular space inside the cased section, and inspecting the pipe while obtaining video data.

Inspection of natural gas transmission lines is important for companies to monitor their assets and protect against corrosion and other potential threats. In addition, Federal regulations from the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) require integrity assessments of pipes. This robotic pipe inspection system will help NYSEARCH/NGA member companies comply with these regulations in a cost-effective, non-disruptive manner.

About Northeast Gas Association

The Northeast Gas Association (NGA) is a trade association representing local distribution companies, interstate pipeline companies, LNG importers and associate companies, involved in supporting the natural gas industry in the seven-state region of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Northeast Gas Association’s mission is to promote and enhance the safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally responsible delivery of natural gas to customers in the region, and to advocate for the industry from production to delivery. NYSEARCH is a sub-organization within NGA that manages a voluntary RD & D program for (20) gas companies in North America. More information can be found at the NGA and NYSEARCH Websites: www.northeastgas.org and www.nysearch.org.

About Honeybee Robotics 

Honeybee Robotics develops advanced robotic and electromechanical systems that operate in challenging environments in space and on Earth. The company serves as a research and development partner to help solve its customers’ unmet needs with robotic systems that extend and enhance capabilities in extreme and unstructured environments. Since 1983, Honeybee Robotics has completed more than 300 advanced projects for NASA, the US Department of Defense, academia, and industry. Based in New York, the company maintains satellite offices in Longmont, CO and Pasadena, CA. For more, go to www.honeybeerobotics.com.