Rapid Inspection

Camera system documents manhole conditions faster than traditional methods and without confined-space entry.
Rapid Inspection
The RapidView IBAK PANORAMO SI manhole inspection camera enables crews to inspect manholes without confined-space entry. (Photos courtesy of PipeTek Infrastructure Services Inc.)

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Intrigued by the prospect of dramatic gains in productivity, the quality of data collected, and on-the-job safety, PipeTek Infrastructure Services Inc. decided to buy a RapidView IBAK PANORAMO SI manhole inspection camera.

With a price tag of $175,000, it was a significant purchase. But based on customer response and the impact on the company’s bottom line, the unit represents a sound investment, says Robert Lodge, president of the company, located in Hamilton, Ontario.

“What we can do in a manhole and the top-quality digital data we can accumulate far exceeds what we could gather previously,” Lodge says. “And we don’t have to send a guy into the chamber to do it, which makes it much safer and faster. We just lower the PANORAMO into the chamber with a winch, and it performs the inspection on the way back up.

“We can do a manhole inspection in about four minutes,” he continues, and that includes about two minutes to open and close the manhole cover. “To set everything up and put a man down there, it would take at least a half hour. As such, we can average about 70 inspections a day, or more than double what we could do with a conventional pole-camera inspection. And the inspections aren’t more expensive for customers because we can do so many more per day.”

The unit is made by RapidView LLC and utilizes a 3D Optoscanner – essentially two high-resolution digital cameras with specially designed, distortion-free, wide-angle lenses – to scan an entire manhole interior during just one vertical run. The scan provides a high-resolution, 360-degree view of the manhole via fiber-optic cable, making structural defects easy to see.

After the scan is completed, software allows inspectors to view image data as if it were a live video feed. An inspector can stop at any position in the manhole or do a 360-degree pan and zoom in for snapshots of specific areas either on a job site or back in an office.

“You get complete freedom of view after the fact,” Lodge notes. “You don’t have to worry about the operator missing a section of a chamber you really want to look at. You can point and click and view any angle of any spot you want.”

In addition, an inspector can generate an “unfolded” panoramic view of the entire manhole, which provides an easy-to-see overview of the manhole’s structural condition and enables the user to accurately measure objects on manhole walls.

Moreover, because the unit enables crews to do manhole inspections without confined-space entry, the PANORAMO SI is classified under Canadian traffic laws as a mobile unit. The upshot? Greatly reduced setup time compared to jobs that require confined-space entry, which are classified as short-term operations and, as such, require time-consuming setups to close off traffic lanes.

“As long as we have an arrow board and strobe lights, we can basically jump out, do a job and move on,” Lodge explains. “We can get in and off a road in a few minutes, and then finish the rest of the inspection later in an office in a controlled environment. Or we can send the raw files to the client and let them do the defect coding themselves.”

The unit’s portability enables PipeTek crews to inspect manholes in previously inaccessible locations. The unit is permanently mounted on a 4-by-4-foot skid that can be placed on an ATV and transported to a remote manhole. Even if a site is inaccessible via ATV, a crew can remove the entire unit from the skid and break it down into three easy-to-carry components: a drum reel, controller and generator.

“We’ve gone out in the middle of the woods to inspect remote manholes,” Lodge notes. “The unit’s portability gives us a great deal of flexibility and enables us to do work we couldn’t do before. The only limit to how far away or how deep we can do an inspection is the length of the cable. We have at least 200 feet of cable and can go farther than that if we need to.”

Lodge says the PANORAMO SI opens up another market segment for PipeTek, which previously focused mostly on pipeline inspections and locating for municipal and industrial companies in Ontario and Manitoba.

“Manholes are one piece of underground infrastructure that’s mostly ignored,” Lodge points out. “There’s much more emphasis on inspections of mainlines and laterals. The PANORAMO SI provides customers with a permanent digital record of baseline inspection data that can be easily transported into infrastructure management systems. That, in turn, makes it much easier to compare baseline results against data collected from future inspections.”

Show Us the Money (Machine)

Money Machines, a feature in Cleaner, reports on innovative work vehicles that help contractors operate more efficiently, satisfy customers and earn more profit. We’d like to know about your Money Machine — be it a service van, camera truck, jetting rig, vacuum unit or any vehicle that really helps drive your business. To nominate your vehicle for a feature in this column, send an email to editor@cleaner.com. Tell us briefly but specifically what features make it a great producer. And send a picture — because appearance counts. We look forward to seeing your Money Machine.


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