Don't Believe the Pipe

In-Pipe Robot Navigator


Member profile details

Membership level
2011-2012 Team
Project Thumbnail Image
Team Name
Don't Believe the Pipe
Project Title
In-Pipe Robot Navigator
Design Challenge
Inspection of complex pipeline networks is next to impossible with currently available technology. Because of this, these pipelines often break open due to interior cracks and leak their contents, resulting in costly and potentially harmful spills. The goal of our project is to develop a prototype for a robot with the sensing and mechanical abilities necessary to successfully navigate and inspect the interiors of the pipelines in these complex networks.
Design Summary
Goals – At the completion of the project our robot (Rhino) will be able to:
• Turn through all pipe geometries and junctions, in particular, 90 degree mitered turns
• Maintain enough wheel force against walls of pipeline to ensure drive traction
• Adapt to changing pipe diameters within a given range
• Sense pipe geometries and autonomously detect the type of upcoming junction or turn

Strategy: It must be noted that the Rhino is only a vehicle which carries the pipe inspection equipment, and the proof of concept of the Rhino must only be able to navigate empty pipe autonomously. We’ve decided to separate our design problems into two sections: mechanization and sensing. Our mechanization solution involves what we call a lead-in design, which utilizes a curved leading nose to convert the forward drive force of the robot into a steering force perpendicular to the direction of travel. Our sensing solution uses sonar rangers to detect wall presence and distance from the sensor, then relays that information to a control structure which decides what type of junction has been encountered and chooses travel direction and controls robot movement.

Project Status: Don’t Believe the Pipe has finished construction and assembly of the final 3D prototype and conducted mechanical testing and well as turn testing. Additionally, we have also written LabVIEW code that identifies the geometric profiles of the pipe the robot is in.
The next steps are to use LabVIEW to control the stepper motor in our lead-in section so that decision making code can be used to autonomously run the robot. We will also try to improve the robots physical turning ability.

Last Edited: 04/15/11
Sponsor Logo
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Fathi Ghorbel
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Jim Dabney

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
National Instruments Award for Engineering Design

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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