Old and shabby faucet washers and gaskets create leaks in faucets frequently resulting in a waste of over 3,000 gallons of water per year at the rate of one drip per second. Water scarcity was the reason, the officials used to shut off the water once a week in You Wu’s community when he was growing up in China. After moving to the US about 10 years ago, Wu chose to study more about water scarcity and how to solve it.
Now, this 28-year old Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate has built a robot that can save trillions of gallons of lost drinking water.
The robot can find leaks in water pipes using its hands to touch and sense the suction forces that caused due to holes. Working on the prototype and creating a working robot took Wu five years. Lighthouse, the current version built by his company Pipeguard Robotics was released shortly after his name came to Forbes’ 2018’s ‘Under 30′ list for manufacturing and industry.
Now Wu and his college friend Tyler Mantel is now up for a new company WatchTower Robotics, which they founded in June to find leaks, save water and protect infrastructure. Though several methods are available to find leaks in pipes all of them are based on the sounds caused by the vibration of the pipes and pressure reduction; which doesn’t work well in cities because of the increased noise levels caused by many factors. Wu’s robot works well in both cities and suburban areas.
“My eventual goal is to put our robotic tools into the hands of field technicians in every single city around the world so that every single city in the world can have less water loss due to leaks and support more population growth,” Wu said.
Lighthouse has been already tested in Virginia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. They’re also leading pilot programs in Massachusetts with the Cambridge Water Department and in Australia with the pipeline-service company Detection Services.