A pipe crawler video inspection system from Deep Trekker provides substantial versatility in a package that can be operated by a single technician.


Equipment for inspecting pipes, tanks, culverts and other water infrastructure can be a major investment. Truck-mounted systems are extremely powerful but involve substantial expense both for the equipment and the labor to operate it. Push cameras are limited in the types and sizes of facilities they can inspect.

Now, Deep Trekker has introduced a portable crawler camera system that one technician can deploy in streets or in remote locations. It is battery operated and does not require a support vehicle. The crawler and camera have the added benefit of being fully submersible and thus useful for inspection of underwater facilities or pipes filled with water.

The technology is an offshoot of the company’s experience with Deep Trekker submersible remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for inspecting potable facilities such as water tanks and reservoirs. Amanda Coulas, marketing manager, talked about the crawler camera system in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.

Related: Those Futuristic Drones: How Using ROVs For Infrastructure Inspection Can Reduce Legwork

TPO: What need in the marketplace drove development of this technology?

Coulas: Infrastructure is aging, especially in North America, and it’s important that it be inspected. We work with service companies, municipalities and commercial divers, and many smaller entities find it difficult to afford both the manpower and the inspection systems themselves. We set out to make a portable pipe crawler for those small entities, as well as for larger ones that need a system one technician can deploy almost anywhere. You don’t need a generator, and you don’t need a dedicated truck. It’s self-contained. It can be deployed from a pickup truck or an ATV.

TPO: What enables this unit to operate underwater?

Coulas: We come from the underwater world, so all the waterproofing technology and robust components used to make our submersible ROVs has been brought over to the crawler world. The crawler is depth rated to 164 feet. It can go into reservoirs, underwater pipelines and operate semi- or fully submerged in stormwater systems.

TPO: Can this unit be used for general sanitary sewer pipe and water pipe inspections?

Coulas: Yes, definitely. We have tracks and different wheel options that enable it to go into larger pipes, including sanitary sewer pipelines. It can also inspect potable water pipes, and in fact any pipe as small as 8 inches. As with our ROV system, all materials are acceptable for use in drinking water.

TPO: What type of camera does this system use?

Coulas: We offer a static camera head and a pan-tilt-zoom camera. The proven block camera head is intended for low-light inspection with 10x optical zoom. Six small, ultrabright, dimmable LEDs surround the camera to provide a full shadowless view at 1,000 lumens. The cable reel has a capacity up to 1,300 feet, and we offer a deployed cable length counter.

TPO: How are the crawler and camera controlled when deployed?

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Coulas: The hand-held monitor and control unit include everything needed to operate the system. It is designed like a familiar video game controller. One joystick controls the steerable wheels. Another joystick handles the pan, tilt and zoom of the camera head. There are buttons on the front for functions such as bringing the camera back to center and turning on or dimming the lights. Planned innovations include an elevating arm to position the camera head in the middle of larger pipes. That will also be operated from the hand-held controller.

TPO: What about the system’s video capability?

Coulas: We’ve aimed to provide the same quality video recording available in truck-based systems.

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The monitor has a 5.6-inch screen that is about five times brighter than a laptop computer screen. The screen shows the incline roll and the camera pan and tilt angle. A digital video recorder plugs into the back that can hold up to 64GB on an SD card — enough for several hours of footage. An RCA connector in the back of the monitor lets users plug into a PC or other monitor device to implement pipe survey and reporting software.

TPO: What do you see as some of the most promising applications for this system?

Coulas: We’ve seen a lot of interest from municipalities for their sanitary sewers. Service companies that already own ROVs are interested in using it for stormwater and potable waterlines. Some clients who use ROVs primarily for water tank inspections plan to add the crawler to their service fleet.  

TPO: Do you see significant potential in stormwater applications?

Coulas: Yes. Our ROVs are used a lot in the stormwater sector, and the pipe crawler will expand our capabilities in that market. Different states have different regulations about how much sediment can accumulate in stormwater pipes. If pipes are not properly maintained, flood risks increase. It’s important for cities and suburbs to keep inspections current.

TPO: How would you describe the durability of this equipment?

Coulas: ROV applications tend to be really rough on equipment, and we have brought the robust engineering and construction technology over to our crawler. It’s very durable, with a diecast aluminum body and a powder-coated finish.


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