Robots designed and built in Yorkshire are set to help reduce leaks in water and gas pipes around the world.

Harrogate-based Synovate, part of the Synthotech Group, 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.

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

Academics estimate there are 1.5m road excavations per year in the UK, which cost the country at least £5.5B* annually and result in full or partial road closures.

Commenting on the innovation, Simon Langdale, engineering director at Synovate, said: “The LeakVISION robots will make it easier and faster to identify and fix leaks, which will be a significant benefit to the environment. In addition, deploying robots saves time and resources over traditional excavation methods.

“We are also trialling new technology where the robots will seal leaks from within the pipes, further reducing the need for extensive digging. The market for these technologies is limitless, and we’ve already had interest from Australia, China and the Middle East.”

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

The robots have already been trialled successfully with gas distributor Northern Gas Networks (NGN). NGN’s underground network carries gas to 2.7 million homes and businesses across the North East, northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire.

Synovate is also developing robots to find hydrogen leaks, which will be essential for implementing the government’s Hydrogen Strategy.

The LeakVISION technology will be displayed at an Innovate UK and West Yorkshire Region Action Plan event on 21 February at Nexus in Leeds.

Simon Langdale concluded: “We continue investing in the technology, which has a huge potential worldwide. Safe and secure water and energy supply faces increasing challenges due to urbanisation and cost control pressures. These little Yorkshire robots can make a real difference.”

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.