US Army Chooses Inuktun for Middle-East Pipe Inspections

Inuktun Services, a pioneer in the development and refinement of track crawlers used for sewer and water video pipe inspections, recently made some news that has boosted the Nanaimo, BC company's sales but also its reputation in the market place for quality and reliability.

The Robotic Systems Joint Project Office (RSJPO), located at the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, recently ordered 10 pipe inspection units for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What is the RSJPO? The organization endeavors, in its own words, "to rapidly field robotic capabilities into the hands of soldiers and marines." Since 2004, more than 4,000 robotic systems have been fielded to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Redstone Arsenal is a giant-sized operation, even by U.S. Army standards. Over 130 different organizations and 30,000 federal and contractor employees call this federal installation home. Redstone Arsenal covers nearly 38,000 acres, including 14,000 acres of test ranges and includes 2,000 facilities.

Colin Dobell, president of Inuktun, says organizations don't need to be as large or as complex as the Redstone Arsenal to make productive use of its patented Mintrac and Microtrac crawler technology.

"Most of our customers are municipalities and contractors in the U.S. and Canada who encounter pipes of different diameters when they perform sewer and water pipe inspections and who want to use just one type of crawler, instead of going back and forth between track and wheel crawler," Dobell says.

Sewer and water infrastructure is getting older all the time, so there are no simple, straightforward pipe inspections anymore. "When you inspect sewer and water pipes, you need to be prepared to deal with many different types and sizes of pipes - storm drains, sewer mains, four-inch pipes, eight-inch pipes, combination, potable water pipes, fire hydrant pipes - all different kinds," Dobell says.

In addition to having to deal with a multiplicity of pipe shapes and sizes, municipalities and pipe inspection contractors also face challenges posed by sagging pipes, intrusive tree roots, offset joints and greasy and slippery pipes.

Many contractors use both track and wheeled crawlers; track crawlers for power and wheeled crawlers for maneuverability. That isn't necessary anymore. Thanks to its ruggedness and unique modular design, Inuktun products combine the power of tracks and the maneuverability of wheels.

"They're strong enough to haul 6,000 feet of cable or pull a truck across a parking lot," Dobell says. Rugged and reliable In addition, Inuktun's tracks are more advanced than other track-based crawler units. Some of the first track crawlers used in pipe inspection experienced silt and sand build-up. "This led to problems with maneuverability and maintenance and the industry went the other way, to wheels," Dobell says.

But Inuktun's track units come equipped with a spring-loaded mechanism that gets rid of the build-up. Another reason Inuktun's track crawlers don't have maneuverability and maintenance problems is their built-in ruggedness. "Our crawlers were originally built for the oil and gas and nuclear power industries," Dobell says. "Since the cost of down-time in those industries is so high - tens of thousands of dollars an hour - our systems had to be rugged and absolutely reliable."

Mintrac and Microtrac crawler units are not only rugged, they can also operate in confined spaces in hazardous environments, submerged or on land. They are maneuverable and precisely controllable in even the most inaccessible pipes and ductwork. Available in brass, stainless steel or aluminum, the precision-machined units can be adapted to upgrade an existing inspection vehicle or built into a complete system tailored to the specific needs of your industry.

All Inuktun Versatrax units are configurable for round pipe or flat surface operation. The vehicles are adjustable for a range of pipe diameters.

Modular design equals Easy Customized Solutions
Because all Inuktun systems are modular in design, contractors and municipalities can choose from a wide range of standard camera, crawler and modular controllers. That means you can easily create your own customized solutions by mixing and matching Inuktun's off-the-shelf products.

All Inuktun systems can be used as platforms to which you can add accessories and peripherals - manipulators, sensors, sonar equipment, etc -to boost your productivity.

Not only are the product components modular, but the chassis have been designed with flexible configurations, which allows them to be used in multiple applications. All Versatrax systems can be easily converted from parallel to in-line configuration so they fit easily within pipes of different diameters.

Powerful, Maneuverable, Modular and Waterproof

Inuktun equipment is:

Powerful - With a payload capacity of more than 200 pounds, the Versatrax is the most powerful crawler on the market. Its custom-built Swiss motor with patented drive mechanism gives it plenty of torque.

Maneuverable - With a short wheel base of 15 inches and the ability to travel up to 30 feet per minute, Inuktun equipment is faster and more maneuverable than other underground video pipe inspection systems.

Modular - Because each track is self-contained, Inuktun crawlers can be combined in different configurations for different applications. If you're working inside narrow pipes, Inuktun crawlers can be put one in front of the other. And side-by-side inside wider ones. They are steer-able and can go up pipe walls and around pipe corners.

Waterproof - Inuktun equipment is completely sealed against water pressure up to 100 feet under water.

Versatile - If you want an even more complete solution, Inuktun can build specialized inspection equipment, such as sonar or leading-edge laser profiling hardware.

Unique MiniTracs Technology
Using Minitracs technology, the Versatrax units are machined from solid brass stock and are fitted with gear-motors and vulcanized deep lug tack belts.

"Each unit is completely independent of the other, providing the system with excellent steering and maneuvering capabilities," Dobell says.

The Versatrax system can be reconfigured to operate inside pipes of different diameters. "This feature allows the operator to use the same equipment for a wide range of inspection tasks," Dobell says. "The result is substantial savings in both time and equipment inventory."

To enable Versatrax to operate in small-diameter pipes, flexible connecting hardware allows the tracks and camera to be mounted in-line. In this configuration the tracks are configured with side bumpers that act as abrasion guards for the cable harness and stabilizers to prevent the tracks from tipping over inside the pipe. The flexible joints allow the unit to negotiate bends and obstacles as it travels through the pipe.

Versatrax Products
Inuktun's best selling crawler unit is the Versatrax 150, a long-range internal pipe inspection system that can operate inside pipes of internal diameters starting at 150 mm (six inches).

Applications - Storm drains; hydroelectric pipe and infrastructure; steam headers; tanks and pressure vessels; oil and gas refineries and pipelines; pulp and paper mills; and mines.

Features - Waterproof to a depth of 30 metres (100 feet); effectiveness to at least 457 metres (1500 feet); low maintenance; high-resolution pan, tilt and zoom color-camera option for 360-degree views and close-ups; intuitive controls, for easy operation; clutched tracks, for easy retrieval; and universal video outputs.


Priscilla Johnson

Since 1989, Inuktun Services Ltd. has been designing and building remotely operated systems that bridge the gap between people and the physical world, helping clients reach the unreachable and see the unseen. Whether you are working in a hazardous area, deep underwater, or in extremely confined spaces, Inuktun’s lineup of modular robotic crawlers and cameras make it possible to perform inspection and remote handling jobs safely and efficiently. And, the Inuktun Multi-Mission Modular (IM3) technology developed by Inuktun means systems can be quickly adapted for different purposes.