In Los Angeles alone, about two thirds of the city's 7,000 miles of water pipes are more than 60 years old — and nearing the end of their useful lives.
Water main breaks can cause flooding, leading to serious structural damage and soil erosion. Even small leaks can exacerbate water shortages and allow potentially harmful contaminants into our drinking water. But locating a leak within a vast network of underground pipes is almost impossible.
Now, researchers at USC's Information Sciences Institute are developing an autonomous robot that could quickly and inexpensively detect damage in water pipes — even those buried meters below the ground.