Custom Versatrax 100™ Assessed for Use in Ancient Afghan Irrigation Networks
Customization Ability Sets Inuktun Apart from Competitors
Military units operating in the Middle East have been conducting trials throughout 2012 of Inuktun's Versatrax 100™ (VT100) miniature crawler system. The trials, when completed, may result in modifications to the VT100.
Inuktun's standard Versatrax 100™ crawler can inspect pipes and ducts as narrow as four inches (10cm) in diameter. It is available in both in-line and parallel configurations for different pipe sizes. The VT100 has been used for pipe inspection applications in the nuclear, oil and gas and municipal markets for more than 12 years.
The modifications being considered are the result of deployment and mobility challenges posed by the difficult environment. Specific changes under consideration include a fixed chassis, to improve ground clearance and traction; a fixed vertical camera, for true pan and tilt capability and better visibility above the water level in underground structures; and a shorter tether cable on a miniature cable reel for ease of transport (the cable and vehicle are deployed from a single Pelican® case).
"It's a very challenging environment," said the client. "There are obstacles such as rocks and debris to work around and reduced traction due to loose silt."
Military units "may have an interest in using the robot to determine if illegal or threatening activities are occurring underground."
Inuktun president Colin Dobell says one of the things that sets the company apart from its competitors is its ability and willingness to customize its products for customers.
"The standard VT100 is a commercially available, off-the-shelf product," Dobell said. "It is small, portable, waterproof and modular, which allows us to customize or adapt the system easily for different environments."
Dobell says clients have asked for similar modifications in the past on the Versatrax 150™ system for use in underground structures. They have also used Inuktun's Versatrax 200™ and Versatrax 450™ in various parts of the world for confined space investigations.
In addition to Inuktun's Middle East client, many other customers have requested modifications to crawler and camera systems they have purchased. For example, Redmond, WA-based Laser Techniques Company, which develops automated, high-resolution laser-based measurement and inspection systems, use Inuktun's Minitrac™ and Microtrac™ crawler units.
"They propel our laser-based scanners through large-calibre gun tubes," said founder and president James Doyle. "We also use them for pipe inspection ."
Doyle says the Microtracs™ crawlers were modified to provide more precision and slower drive speeds.
"The modifications were completed in short order," said Doyle. "I believe Inuktun had a working unit within a few weeks. They were very responsive."
Doyle says the units have been working well for Laser Techniques. "We are very happy with them," he said.
Dounreay Site Restoration Limited, which undertakes site closure and environmental restoration for the United Kingdom's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, has used a modified Versatrax 150™ (VT150) crawler system.
"We used a crawler with a camera and gamma spectrometry module to accomplish a difficult task," said project manager Martin Howse. "It had to go at least 50 metres underwater, and up to 300 metres, in inclined pipes that were coated in radioactive sludge."
In order to satisfy Dounreay's requirements, a standard VT150 crawler needed to be customized. "The crawlers had to navigate inclined pipes with a number of bends, which cause capstan effects on the cable at each bend,." Howse said. "So they needed mass, stability, good crawling ability in wet 220 mm diameter pipes and the ability to record radiation in real time from a gamma spectrometer mounted on the unit."
Howse says the customized VT150 has worked well for Dounreay. "I could not have wished for a better outcome, considering the circumstances we were working under," he said.
Stork Technical Services, a Netherlands-based company that provides asset integrity management services to corporations in the oil and gas, power and chemical industries, uses a number of Inuktun crawler (Verstrax 100™, Versatrax 100 MicroMag™ and Versatrax 150™) and camera (Spectrum 45™ and Spectrum 90™) systems.
"We use the crawlers to inspect pipes internally," said engineer Mat Meredith "And we use the cameras separately for remote visual inspections."
Stork asked Inuktun to modify a Versatrax 100 MicroMag™ chassis, to optimize performance inside a 26-inch NB pipe, and Microtrac™ crawlers, to accommodate greater water depth.
"The new system was delivered on time and has been successful on multiple inspection jobs," Meredith said.
Going Underground in Afghanistan
The Versatrax 100™ could be used in the Afghan underground irrigation network called karez. (Karez is the Pashto term for the man-made underground water system.)
The shafts of karez, which are dug by farmers, average nine to 15 metres in depth, but occasionally they go down as far as 30 metres. Some of the karez stretch for several kilometers underground.
Because many of the rivers in that part of the world are seasonal, the rural inhabitants use karez as a way of prolonging their agricultural water supply during the dry months, of which there are many.
The karez method of water distribution has been in existence for a long time; they may have even been in place when Alexander the Great came through Afghanistan in 328 BC.
The karez have another use, in addition to agriculture. Since ancient times, the underground waterways have been used by villagers for shelter against their enemies. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, to cite a recent example, villagers and the local Mujahideen guerrillas used the karez system to hide people and weapons.
Standard Versatrax 100™ Crawler Vehicle