Advanced engineering company Synovate worked with Cadent, the UK’s largest gas distribution network, to use robots to prevent pipeline leaks ahead of the Coronation festivities in the capital.

The use of robots minimised the need for roadworks at a time when London was extremely busy with hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The LeakVISION robots developed by Harrogate-based Synovate can be deployed remotely for long distances, reducing the excavation needed to locate a leak and minimising environmental impact.

Part of the Synthotech Group, Synovate has invested over £1.2m and spent two years developing the next generation of robots that can sense water and gas leaks from within the pipes. Once pipes are scanned, the robots can then treat the pipelines proactively to prevent gas escapes and customer inconvenience.

Commenting on the work, James Harrison, director of London Network at Cadent, said: “Our work with Synovate means that robots can detect leaks from a single-entry point. It keeps roadworks and disruption to a minimum, reducing any impact on our customers, and is a far more efficient way of working.

“With the help of this technology, we can complete work in advance of large events, carry out essential investigative work but also minimise the impact of our essential work on customers and historical events such as the Coronation weekend, when London saw people from across the world arrive to soak up the atmosphere.”

Synovate worked with experts at the Universities of Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds to develop the technology as part of the Pipebots scheme.

Simon Langdale, engineering director at Synovate, said: “It’s great to see our advanced technology deployed in London at such an important time. Cadent is an innovative company that uses the latest robotic technology to detect and treat leaks in a minimally invasive way. It will make a real difference to the road network around the capital at such a historic moment.”

The development of LeakVISION was partly funded by energy network users and consumers through the Strategic Innovation Fund, a programme from UK energy regulator Ofgem managed in partnership with Innovate UK as part of UK Research and Innovation.

The funding was awarded to energy network innovation projects tackling different aspects of the challenge facing the UK as it works towards achieving its 2050 Climate Change Commitments.