Fisheye Cameras Another Giant Leap For Pipeline Inspection

Advances in inspection technologies have played a significant role in the ability to effectively rehabilitate underground sewer infrastructure.

A major breakthrough came with the introduction of small closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras mounted on miniature tractors that could travel through pipelines and provide visual documentation of defects and potential problems that otherwise would go undetected.

“Over the last 30 years, technologies have become available for sewer inspection that have been instrumental in providing engineers and utility managers the ability to better evaluate and manage their underground infrastructure,” notes Gerhard (Gerry) Muenchmeyer, P.E., president of Muenchmeyer Associates LLC, and technical director of NASSCO (the National Association of Sewer Service Companies), a national association dedicated to establishing and implementing standards for rehabilitation of underground utilities.

“Camera inspection technologies,” said Muenchmeyer, “have progressed from visual inspection with the human eye and black and white cameras 25 to 30-years ago, to sophisticated, color camera technology with the ability to rotate and be manipulated in the pipe to document its condition.”

Muenchmeyer said the latest technologies such as fisheye, panoramic, zoom, sonar and laser capabilities provide the engineer with very detailed, definitive information on which to base the design of renewal technologies for the entire pipe system including mainline, lateral and manholes. The focus of this report is fisheye technology.

“The panoramic or fisheye cameras document a 360-degree view of the existing pipe or manhole and can zoom in on specific defects that are of concern to the engineer,” Muenchmeyer explained. “With these technologies, pipe defect evaluation can be performed back in the office rather than in the field by the TV technician, significantly improving field production.”

In addition, conditions of manholes can be documented in detail without the need for a technician to enter the structure.

“These new camera technologies are the wave of the future; providing the tools to efficiently manage the nation’s underground piping infrastructure,” Muenchmeyer said.

Representatives of the suppliers of fisheye equipment discussed the technology and the equipment they offer.

Envirosight LLC, (Digisewer equipment), Michael Russin, advanced technology manager: Digisewer takes an analog video signal produced by the camera and converts it to a digital signal by means of an internal digital video card. The system’s software captures a frontal and side image of the pipe and stitches these images together for viewing and annotation. This is done without stopping to pan or tilt for defects which allows the operator to safely move the crawler from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

Primary benefits of the system are:

• Speed – Data can be collected at speeds as fast as 70 feet per minute providing double or triple the amount of data that can be collected compared to other inspection methods;
• Deliverable data – Digisewer produces accurate, deliverable information and detail that allows the end user to easily measure and verify existing defects and observations within millimeters of accuracy;
• Small file size – Digisewer file sizes are 3 to 10 times smaller than those of other methods of inspection on the market.; and
• 100 percent inspection – Moving the camera through a pipe without stopping ensures nothing is missed.

Russin cited several features that sets Digisewer apart from other fisheye systems. “Digisewer’s greatest advantage is the crawler that transports it down the pipe itself. Our Rovver and Supervision crawlers are steerable six wheel drive crawlers that allow navigation of difficult pipes. Even though the best scans are captured in line with little or moderate debris, Digisewer can be matched to a specific crawler with specific wheel composition to any pipe material found in the market today. Automatic lift kits, interchangeable crawlers, grease and PVC tires allow the end user to use the best crawler set up for any pipe application.

‘Digisewer offers the distinct advantage of allowing both pan/tilt and digital side wall scanning within the same system. It also works with existing IPEK Rovver systems – more than 1,000 systems are in use in North America today. Therefore, an upgrade for current users requires only the purchase of a scanning camera and software. Digisewer also is compatible with the IPEK Supervision crawler with lateral launch capability. Small, easy to handle files can be integrated into existing network services with data from 15,000 feet requiring only 5 GB.”

Digisewer is manufactured by IPEK Spezial TV a subsidiary of IDEX. Envirosight is the distributor of IPEK products for the North and South American markets and currently IPEK’s largest distributor.

Digisewer has been available in the U.S. since 2007 and is available for sale or rent and has been successfully used in other parts of the world since 2004. No special licensing is required to operate Digisewer other than the components needed with the system – crawler, cable reel, software, etc. Envirosight offers inspection services on a limited basis.

RapidView LLC, (Panoramo inspection ethnology), Matthew W. Sutton, vice president sales and marketing: Panoramo pipeline inspection technology became available in the United States in 2008; Panoramo SI Manhole inspection system became available this year. The technology has been widely used throughout the world since 2003. Panoramo technology allows the user to capture considerably better data at a rate two to three times faster than traditional CCTV. The division of data acquisition and data analysis produces increased safety with as much as 30 percent lower operational costs.

RapidView Panoramo

“Patented technology utilizes digital still images which create a full 360 degree view and unfolded view. Because it captures only still images, the Panoramo system does not suffer from the motion blur of analog/video technology. The system is capable of inspecting up to 72 inch diameter pipelines with a distance of 1,640 feet from an access point,” Sutton said. “This allows us to collect data incredibly fast and maintain incredibly clear, crisp images, ultimately resulting in better data analysis. No other manufacturer offers similar technology for manhole inspection.”

Panoramo pipeline inspection systems and Panoramo SI manhole inspection systems are manufactured by IBAK Helmut Hunger of Kiel, Germany. RapidView IBAK North America sells, distributes and services these products through an extensive dealer network. There are currently more than 150 units operating in North America, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Both Panoramo pipe and manhole inspection systems are in stock and available for sale. There is no license required, and a current CCTV operator can be trained to use Panoramo in less than a day. Data is collected and analyzed by the customer, avoiding the need for the costly or time consuming post data collection analysis by a manufacturer.

RedZone Robotics, (Solo inspection system), Philip Johns, director of marketing: Although successfully completing large pilot jobs in the U.S. for more than a year, the RedZone Solo was officially launched this month at WEFTEC ’09. The Solo robot has been hardened in other parts of the world but the primary focus to date has been in the North American market.

RedZone Robotics Solo

The Solo system is designed to operate in pipes 8 to 12 inches in diameter. The operator lowers the Solo unit into an invert, inputs the pipeline assessment and certification program (PACP) header information into a laptop computer, then “launches” the robot. The operator then can close the manhole and move on to deploy additional robots while the 360 degree video inspection is underway. Digital information collected can be reviewed on site by the operator and then is fully PACP coded by RedZone and presented via ICOM3 asset management software.

“An inspection takes less time than a zoom camera and far less than conventional equipment because no coding is done onsite and multiple robots can be deployed, so it is a quick and easy way to fully inspect pipe and receive PACP coded information in a useful format,” Johns pointed out.

“RedZone’s Solo is the industry’s only autonomous inspection robot. The whole system can be hand carried, allowing crews to deploy it anywhere they can reach by foot. A single crew can deploy multiple robots, increasing throughput by several multiples over conventional CCTV and other fisheye systems. The robots do not require onsite trucks or generators, which result in increased safety, emissions reductions, elimination of easement access challenges and minimal public disruption. Included in the system lease are all viewing, coding and web based asset management software, all designed from the start to work together, saving headaches of compatibility, vendor availability, licensing and IT infrastructure investment.”

The Solo robot is designed and manufactured by RedZone robotics in the United States and requires only one day’s training to operate.

Everything necessary to deploy the robots and analyze the information is included with the system, from field equipment and RedZone PACP coding and web based asset management software. The sales model is designed to reduce fixed costs and maintenance requirements, and ensures that customers are always using the most up to date and well serviced equipment. The system provides customers the flexibility to do more inspection work in a shorter time frame without having to expand their organization.

RedZone also works with partners worldwide who can provide inspection personnel for customers who do not have resources available.


Envirosight, (866) 936-8476,
Rapidview LLC, (800) 656-IBAK (4225),
RedZone Robotics, (412) 476-8980, ext. 231,

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