Members of the engineering research team reviews data captured by the unmanned robot after a pipeline inspection in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

Wayne State’s Abolmaali Brings Robotics and AI Research to Examine the Service Life of Michigan Pipelines – Today @ Wayne

Members of the engineering research team review data captured by the unmanned robot after examining a pipeline in Dallas/Fort. Worth, Texas area.

Detroit – Ali Abul-Maali was dean of the College of Engineering at Wayne State for only two months, and indeed, the former chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington is moving his research to Midtown.

“I have a team of 15 people, led by Senior Program Manager Sarah Ridnor, to move some projects and secure new projects for Wayne State in Michigan,” said Aboul-Maali.

Abolmaali’s team determines the remaining service life of pipelines through automated inspection and AI research, which could be as successful in Michigan as it was in the Lone Star State. Aboul-Maali has received more than $38 million in government grants and fundraising for his research projects including funding to examine and predict the remaining service life of existing sewer pipeline systems throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

The history of water supply and sewage systems in the United States dates back to the 19th century when large cities built pipelines out of bricks and mortar. As technology has advanced over the years, so have pipeline materials; However, only recently, methods have been developed to examine the more than 800,000 miles of buried public sewer pipes that traverse the American landscape.

Team members prepare to deploy the robot into a pipeline through a manhole.
Team members prepare to deploy the robot into a pipeline through a manhole.

A pioneer in subway systems, Abul-Maali has conducted several high-profile structural failure investigations for the National Transportation Safety Board, built a prototype robot to check wear and tear on pipelines and saved cities millions in unnecessary repair and maintenance costs.

“We built robots that took us four years to complete at different stages,” said Aboul Maali, who investigated the Boston tunnel and Minneapolis bridge collapses. “Now, our robots are state-of-the-art in capturing advanced lidar and sonar data to feed into an AI algorithm my team developed. The robotic screening capability along with the AI ​​algorithm will make up the research foundation we bring to Wayne State, which will be unique in the country with No other universities have similar capabilities.”

Abolmaali’s team now has five robots, and they inspect pipes with flow (sewer lines) or without flow (gravity or pressure lines) for structural defects and damage. The robots are equipped with a lidar video camera, sonar, a 360-degree panoramic video camera, and a Geographic Information System (GIS) that is used to display data about its location and where the problems are.

“The lidar device captures the profile above the fluid line, and the sonar reads the data below the fluid line,” said Aboul-Maali.

Unmanned, multi-sensor inspection robots enter pipeline systems through manholes. As you maneuver through the tubes, they provide comprehensive video views while collecting valuable structural damage data.

“This data is automatically analyzed by our professional engineer, who classifies the pipeline based on national specifications,” Abul-Maali said. “Once we have this classification, the artificial intelligence we have developed will determine the remaining service life of the pipelines. The results of the analysis may show differences in the remaining service life in a stretch of pipeline; for example, the remaining service life of one section of pipe may be more than 20 years while Another section of the tube may face imminent failure. With this information, cities can prioritize their budget.”

A robot floats in the sewers as it prepares to examine the service life of a pipeline in Texas.
A robot floats in the sewers as it prepares to examine the service life of a pipeline in Texas.

The project is a tremendous asset for cities looking to plan capital investments and routine preventative maintenance programmes, says Amit Pokharel, a research professor at UTA’s Structural Engineering Research Center.

“The municipalities around the Dallas/Fort Worth area are very impressed with what we’re doing,” said Pokharel, a member of the research team and a former doctoral student at Appolamali. “Focusing on underground pipes is important because they can’t always be accessed to see what’s going on inside and what builds up inside with sediment and acid gases that build up due to sewage, and over time they will eventually corrode.

Bukharel continued: “We have heard multiple news about the collapse of the system and find sudden gaps.” “These are the results of not having proper information about health monitoring of a structural piping system. Our unique expertise is to look at the structural conditions of municipal pipelines and advise them, through automated inspection and artificial intelligence, of the remaining service life for a given pipeline section. Our goal is to make sure that We are taking precautionary measures in assessing the structural health of pipelines so that the risk of catastrophic collapse is prevented. This will avoid significant damage to city infrastructures and prevent significant repair costs for taxpayers.”

Since his arrival at Wayne State, Abul-Maali has been in contact with the City of Detroit about the pipeline project. He says he would welcome a meeting soon with city officials, as well as the Great Lakes Water Authority, which operates the largest single-site wastewater treatment facility in North America.

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