Beca Limited’s “PIPE-I: Revolutionizing Confined Space Exploration” is a finalist in the Innovation Award category at the 2024 Āpōpō Awards.

Discover the power of innovation with PIPE-I: Beca’s cutting-edge robot, entirely developed in New Zealand, that navigates dangerous confined spaces, capturing detailed spatial survey information with LiDAR, video, and images. With faster, more economical, and objective data outputs and results, PIPE-I helps keep our important assets in good condition, maximizing public funds. Experience the future of confined space surveying.

PIPE-i is a groundbreaking innovation that combines robotics and reality capture technologies to provide a safer, more cost-effective, and accurate solution for surveying critical assets. Developed by a Hamilton based Beca Surveyor, this cost ~$100k, and was developed from June 2022 to June 2023. With its semi-automated, remote-controlled robotic survey vehicle, PIPE-i delivers a lightweight 3D scanner into challenging environments that are unsafe for people to enter. This not only prolongs the life of assets by facilitating easy, quick, and regular surveys, but can also survey assets such as culverts, which were previously unable to be surveyed due to safety concerns. Since its launch, PIPE-i has received worldwide attention, showcasing New Zealand as an innovation hub for asset management. And this is just the beginning – the development of an end-to-end automated workflow for asset inspections, including the use of AI for computer vision machine learning, is already underway.



The PIPE-i project was initiated when Beca structural engineers encountered a challenge in surveying a severely cracked and deformed culvert under State Highway 35. Traditional methods were found to be deficient, prompting Beca to conduct market research for a Commercially Off The Shelf (COTS) solution. When none were found, Beca decided to develop a solution in-house. The idea was pitched to the Beca Innovation Investment Group (IIG) with a detailed business case and presentation outlining the development costs and expected commercial return. The IIG approved seed funding for the development of PIPE-i, a semi-automated, remote-controlled robotic survey vehicle designed to deliver a lightweight Leica BLK360 3D scanner into challenging environments. Built from scratch using 3D printing technology, PIPE-i underwent extensive testing and consultation with clients before proving to be a valuable tool for comprehensive and highly accurate surveys while keeping surveyors safe. The NZ Return On Science committee reviewed PIPE-i before its public launch, providing invaluable advice on market understanding, intellectual property safeguarding, and regulatory factors. PIPE-i has proven to be considerably safer than traditional inspection methods, with benefits including the elimination of health and safety hazards, cost-effectiveness, high data accuracy, change monitoring, high definition 360° imagery, resilient design through enhanced data capture, and improved communication among stakeholders and asset owners. The PIPE-i project is a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration in solving complex challenges and improving the world around us. It is a shining example of how technology can be used to enhance safety, efficiency, and accuracy in asset management.

Pipe-I LinkedIn Post Comments can be read here.

The Innovation Award is proudly sponsored by IDS