Sewer and water pipe construction typically involves deep shaft excavation, open cut, micro-tunnelling, and pipe jacking works. Prior to carrying out any work, it is critical to identify all existing underground utilities and verify their exact locations and depths, so as to prevent damaging them or to divert them before constructing the pipes. Currently, the detection and identification of underground utilities are done by referring to drawings, and trial trenching. Trial trenching is a process whereby small trenches are dug to reveal the underground contents. However, this process can be inefficient and increase the amount of time, effort and costs required to seek approval to allow trenching in the following scenarios:
- The utilities are under major roads with heavy traffic;
- The alignment of the utilities is inaccurate and multiple trenches are required to locate the utilities; and/or
- The utilities are buried too deep and require the design and submission of Earth Retaining and Stabilising Structures for the trenching work to reach the desired deep depth.
Currently, there is no alternative method to reliably and comprehensively detect and identify existing underground utilities other than to physically expose the utilities by trial trenching.
The pipes could be installed to depths of 1m to 40m. Besides pipes, common utilities found underground are telecommunication cables (typically at shallower depths of 1.2m to 3m) and power cables (at depth of 1.2m to 5m).
Some of the common materials of water and sewer pipes are ductile and cast iron, steel, reinforced and polymer concrete, and vitrified clay. Electrical cables and telco cables are normally housed in protective sleeves using HDPE/PVC pipes, however certain stretches may not be housed in protective sleeves at all.
We are interested in solutions that support the detection and identification of underground utilities and services. The solution must be able to function without causing any interference or disruption to the utilities and their environment. Ideally, the solution should provide better accuracy and easier execution over conventional solutions.
Other than determining the presence of underground utilities, the solution should also differentiate the type and characteristics of underground utilities found (eg. Material, width) accurately and precisely. This information will validate our findings and further assure relevant utility owners that their services have been accounted for before commencement of excavation works.
Challenge Owners: Water Supply (Network) Department, Water Reclamation (Network) Department – Project Management Division
Key Considerations & Challenges
- The detection range is able to reach depth of at least 3m, but methods with an extended range of 5 meter or more would be more advantageous and favorably considered for implementation.
- The detection method shall maintain high accuracy even if there are interferences from road compositions, soil geology, environmental factors, including the presence of groundwater.
- The accuracy of detection should consistently be within a tolerance of +/- 0.1m which is important if the result is to be used to guide underground pipe construction.
- If your solution is able to differentiate utilities that are closely stacked, please include the details of your detection and identification method in your proposal.
Current Technology Status
- Mainly effective in detecting conductive materials
- Not effective in differentiating power cables that are closely laid or stacked
Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)
- Validation on the technology’s ability to detect utilities under the effect of external interference, such as groundwater, soil conditions, and the presence of other utilities, is required.
- The current GPR solution has only an effective detection range of 3m
- Post processing of the data is needed to support the interpretation and visualisation by officers
- The collected data might have insufficient information to distinguish between different types of utilities
In addition, PUB has been liaising with vendors who are researching into the use of cold atom interferometry-based sensing for underground mapping and is open to learning more about new innovations for this technology type.
Upon request (email to [email protected])
- Example of a trial trenching report (includes drawing and recorded pictures)
- PUB work sites as test sites
A site-tested prototype system that is able to detect, identify and differentiate the various underground utilities to depths of at least 3m, without the need to physically expose the utilities. The system should have a display to provide a real-time data output for on-site investigation. Post-processing of the data should be generated into a report format (minimally with a cross-sectional drawing of the area detected and spatial information of the detected utilities) to reliably guide future underground pipe construction.
If the pilot is successful, the solution would be recommended to PUB’s service contractors.
Funding & Benefits
In order to support companies with innovative solutions to collaborate with PUB, we have lined up pilot funding, mentors, data, test sites, and other resources to support pilot projects.
PUB is committed to providing funding support to help cover the costs of development and test-bedding. This includes manpower, equipment and material costs. Shortlisted companies will receive initial funding of up to SG$250,000 for each pilot project.
Where the company already has basic technological components of the prototype or even a ready solution, the funding can be used to refine the solution based on the site requirements. The solution shall be developed to have systems and processes in place to support actual operations. By the end of the project, a system or process demonstration is carried out in an operational environment.
Where the company needs to perform activities involving design, development and controlled testing of technological components, the funding can be used for hardware and other development and testing. By the end of the prototyping phase, basic technological components shall be integrated to establish that they will work together. The resulting prototype is expected to have relatively “low fidelity” in comparison with the eventual system.
More information on the pilot requirements for each challenge is provided under Challenges.
Upon being selected for funding through the PUB Global Innovation Challenge, companies can submit their funding request along with a detailed pilot proposal. The proposal and funding request will then be reviewed by PUB’s Project Evaluation Panel. More than one company per challenge could eventually receive the funding.
The awardees will be required to propose a payment schedule based on significant milestones, so that payment can be made progressively throughout the pilot project upon attainment of each milestone.
If the pilot project proves to be successful, the awardee will have access to additional funding for further development and testing, or contracts for deployment of the solution.
Mentorship by PUB Experts
If selected for the Pilot Phase, companies will be matched to relevant department(s) and receive mentorship from PUB’s experts. The companies will be able to leverage on their insights and past learnings to accelerate the development of their solution(s) for the water industry.
For each of the challenges, PUB has prepared test sites, data and other internal resources so that solutions can be tested under real conditions and demonstrate valid results.
Commercialisation of Opportunities
If the pilot proves successful, PUB is best positioned to help commercialise and scale the product. The Singapore Water Exchange, which is run by PUB, houses entrepreneurs, startups, investors, accelerators, incubators, market advisors, technology providers, equipment suppliers, research institutes, system integrators and associations to support R&D and help companies build capabilities.
Awards:- up to SG$250,000