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Research project

RAINDROP: tRansforming Acoustic SensINg for leak detection in trunk mains and water DistRibutiOn Pipelines

Project overview

This research aims to develop a suite of three innovative acoustic sensing technologies for detecting water leaks in trunk and distribution mains, to provide significantly improved detection relative to current capabilities and enable the step change necessary to meet the challenges facing the water industry. Although primarily aimed at the water industry, aligning with the UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) initiative ‘Zero Leakage 2050’, the work is also relevant to the gas and oil sectors. Leakage from pipes is a major issue in all three sectors, wasting natural resources, resulting in negative environmental and economic impacts, and causing serious safety risks. In the water industry, acoustic methods are dominant for detecting leaks. However, successful application of existing methods requires regular access to the pipes, e.g. via a hydrant, which fundamentally limits the application of these methods. These problems are particularly acute in water trunk mains.

The technologies we shall develop are:

• Monitoring acoustic pressure along an entire pipeline using distributed
acoustic sensing (DAS) using circumferential on-pipe optical fibres
• Coupling the vibration of the pipe wall, at discrete locations, to the ground
surface using fine metal rods, the top of which can be monitored using
conventional sensors (e.g. accelerometers or geophones)
• A portable ‘geo- camera’ to detect and pinpoint leaks from the ground

Together, they open up possibilities for both distributed acoustic monitoring of pipelines for leak prevention, as well as the remote detection of leaks.


Lead researcher

Dr Jen Muggleton BSc (Eng), ACGI, PhD, MA

Principal Research Fellow

Research interests

  • Detection and location of buried infrastructure using vibration techniques.
  • Acoustic leak detection in pipes.
  • Vibration of fluid-filled pipes.
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Other researchers

Professor Paul White

Prof of Statistical Signal Processing

Research interests

  • Paul has research interests which include signal processing, underwater acoustics and bioacoustics (the way animals, especially marine mammals, use sound). He is primarily concerned with developing tools to assist in the computer-aided analysis of underwater sounds and understanding the role of those sounds in the marine environment.
  • Acoustics, in the form of sonar, is an important tool for the exploration of the marine environment. It is used by the seismic industry to locate oil and gas reserves, by the military to detect objects, by oceanographers to make measurements and by marine mammals to survive.
  • Man-made underwater acoustic systems rely upon computers to process the data coming from sensors to interpret the environment. The processing methods within the computer systems are a critical component often defining the overall success of the instrument.
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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

Jennifer Muggleton, Oscar Scussel, E. Rustighi, Michael Brennan, F Almeida, M Karimi & Phillip Joseph, 2022
Type: conference
Oscar Scussel, M.J. Brennan, Fabrício C.L. Almeida, Jennifer Muggleton, Emiliano Rustighi & Phillip Joseph, 2020, Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing, 147
Type: article