Alaska Patent of the Month – October 2021

Pipelines are used around the world to transport fluids (eg. water, oil, gas) to power plants and refineries. Over time, these pipelines can develop cracks, erode, or be damaged in other ways. These damages or faults can cause loss of transported fluid as well as injury to operators. Kakivik Asset Management, LLC is a major operations facilitator focused on extending the lifespan of various critical infrastructure in the pipeline industry. They recognize the need for a pipeline to function in harsh, forbidding landscapes and create innovative solutions to meet these needs.

They have developed a pipeline inspection robot or crawler which can troll along a pipeline and inspect for damage. Other variations on these inspection devices are unable to reliably remain centered on a pipe or turn corners when needed. The design for their inspection crawler uses independently operated wheels to provide better support and ensure it can remain balanced on the pipe. The independent control allows the crawler to move over support saddles and imperfections without being thrown off. To further enhance control, the motors which control each wheel use an inertial measurement unit (IMU)  to provide a signal of orientation of the device compared to the pipeline. The IMU takes factors like target speed, turning ratio, and pipe diameter to manage each wheel’s motion properly. By allowing the device to control each individual wheel, the device can function with minimal operator intervention, reducing the manual labor needed to maintain a pipe. This leaves the operator open to assessing the images that come through the devices equipped cameras and improves the ability to maintain the pipeline.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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