RAINDROP: tRansforming Acoustic SensINg for leak detection in trunk mains and water DistRibutiOn Pipelines

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


This proposal aims to develop a suite of three innovative acoustic sensing technologies for detecting water leaks in trunk and distribution mains that is able to provide significantly improved detection relative to current capabilities and enable the step change necessary to meet the challenges facing the water industry. Although primarily aimed at the water industry, aligning with the UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) initiative 'Zero Leakage 2050', the work is also relevant to the gas and oil sectors. Leakage from pipes is a major issue in all three sectors, wasting natural resources, resulting in negative environmental and economic impacts, and causing serious safety risks. In the water industry, acoustic methods are the dominant methods for detecting leaks. However, successful application of existing methods requires regular access to the pipes, e.g. via a hydrant, which fundamentally limits the application of these methods. These problems are particularly acute in water trunk mains, in plastic pipes and in long distance oil and gas pipelines.

The technologies we shall develop are:
(i) Monitoring acoustic pressure along an entire pipeline using distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) using circumferential on-pipe optical fibres
(ii) Coupling the vibration of the pipe wall at discrete locations to the ground surface using fine metal rods, the top of which can be monitored using conventional sensors (e.g. accelerometers or geophones)
(iii) A portable 'geo- camera' to detect and pinpoint leaks from the ground surface

Receiving widespread endorsement from both UK Water Industry Research and their members, along with the UK Water Leakage Network, they open up possibilities for both distributed acoustic monitoring of pipelines for leak prevention, as well as the remote detection of leaks.

The research will comprise theoretical modelling, with a focus on physics-based mechanistic approaches; experimental measurements, in the laboratory, at outdoor test sites and on the live water network; and signal processing.


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