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Detection of odorless and invisible gas leaks from pipelines can be challenging and expensive. Current solutions include slow, qualitative, analog sensors or expensive delicate cameras. A new drone-based system can help operators of US pipeline infrastructure to increase their safety and environmental capabilities in line with the USA 2020 PIPES Act directing gas pipeline operators to use advanced leak detection technologies to protect the environment and pipeline safety.

ABB’s Mobile Gas Leak Detection System, HoverGuard, is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based system that detects, quantifies and maps leaks up to 300 ft from natural gas distribution and transmission pipelines, gathering lines, storage facilities, and other potential sources quickly, safely and reliably. It automatically generates comprehensive digital reports that summarize results and can be shared in minutes after a survey.

The cloud-connected, multi-gas solution is also the first of its kind to quantify the three most important greenhouse gases methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor continuously while flying. Each greenhouse gas affects the environment differently and is present in the air in different amounts. Sourcing individual gases also provides important information to scientists and researchers when studying the complex environmental processes affecting climate and pollution.

Patented cavity enhanced laser absorption spectroscopy detects methane with a sensitivity more than 1,000 times higher than conventional leak detection tools. This sensitivity and speed allow HoverGuard to detect leaks while flying at altitudes of 130 ft, or higher, and at speeds greater than 55 mph. It can cover 10-15 times more land area per minute by operating on low-cost commercial UAV capable of carrying a payload of 6.6 lbs.