An economical, airborne solution from an Israeli company could save up to a fifth of the urban water lost through leaky pipes.
Actress Jennifer Aniston once said that she saves water by brushing her teeth in the shower. If she and other Americans knew that cities like New York are losing more than 45 percent of their water through leaky pipes, more people might be taking more drastic measures. Running the tap for teeth is nothing compared to what’s really going down the drain.
An Israeli company specializing in water measurement and managing technologies may solve the problem. Arad Group, owned by two agricultural communes in northern Israel, has invented a fly-by solution in the form of an airborne drone that quickly sizes up water meters and identifies leaks in the system. It could save up to 20% of the city of New York’s lost water from going down the drain.
The company has just made a sale in Texas and is in contact with many cities in America, India and the UK about the widespread deployment of its two-pound drone plane, monitored by a technician and a laptop. It can fly up to 900 feet above ground and detect leaks from the air.
Affluent regions and gated communities in America already use mobile units attached to vehicles to measure possible leaks in private homes. In some places, people with monitors walk the streets at night to pick up signals. However, this approach is labor-intensive, some of us don’t appreciate a lurking vehicle or person in our private communities, and estimates aren’t as accurate as they could be because of the lag time between reports, Arad Group CEO Dan Winter, tells ISRAEL21c.
Drones can “see” leaky toilets
Bought by utilities companies and installed citywide, “Our system actually sees the leaks,” Winter says. “It’s a water meter detector with a leak-detecting alarm inside the meter. Transmitting every 11 seconds, when the drone flies over the area, it can pick up leak alarms.”
The solution, he adds, is 25% less expensive than the water meters Arad sells which can remotely transmit information about leaks to a base station. “It’s a cost effective solution,” he asserts.
The 400-person company is already supplying water meters to the better part of North America, including New York City.
Arad Group had dramatic results after testing its flying drone at an Israeli pilot site. The three-foot aircraft, able to detect leaky toilets, pipes and such, managed to reduce the water loss there by a whopping 23%. Winter has a more conservative estimate of savings for American clients, at somewhere between eight and 20%.
Solutions are needed now. A 2006 World Bank study found that water escaping through leaks accounts for some $14 billion in lost revenues every year. And most of this is in developed countries like the US.
Drone doubles as security camera and traffic plane
For a city of 50,000 homes, Arad’s drone and software would cost about $100,000 and the specialized water meter needed to communicate with it would cost about $130 per home. And the savings from significantly less water lost through leaks would quickly add up.
The drone can fly for about 90 minutes before it needs recharging and can be used for other practical purposes as well. Once it has monitored the water pipes in your neighborhood or condo, it can be fitted with a camera and sent out to take pictures of traffic jams.
“You could take it to places where there have been accidents, or to monitor traffic jams when you want to know the reason,” says Winter, noting that the drone can also be used for security surveillance in gated communities, when homeowners are absent for extended periods of time.
Last year Arad Group, founded in 1941, sold over $100 million in water meters, and signed a contract to supply the Indian city of Mumbai with water meters. More and more countries are now aware that water supplies and the energy needed to create them are not unlimited.
An increasing shortage of water compounded by an increasing population that’s improving its lifestyle is to blame. “As the consumption of water is increased, the supply becomes more limited,” says Winter adding, “We can live without electricity, but no one can live without water.” Arad Group hopes that its unmanned plane is the big idea that can plug the little leaks.