Camera Takes on Any Inspection Challenge

Even under the toughest conditions, Rovver X inspection cameras keep on working — and generating revenue

Camera Takes on Any Inspection Challenge

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During the six years since Ellingson Cos. invested in its first Envirosight Rovver X pipeline inspection camera, there have been several instances when Joe Bingham figured the unit had met its match on a difficult job.

In particular, Bingham — production manager for the company, based in West Concord in southeastern Minnesota — recalls the time the wheeled Rovver X was on the receiving end of an unexpected, scalding-hot bath while inspecting pipes in a food-processing plant.

“In the middle of the inspection, a boiler dumped 185-degree F water into the line, which the Rovver X is not designed to handle,” Bingham says. “There wasn’t enough time to get the Rovver X out.

“By the time we were able to retrieve it, the hot water had melted the exterior paint and the unit was overheated. But after we let it cool off and started it up again, we were totally amazed when it still worked with absolutely no issues at all. We thought we ruined it, but it kept on trucking — never skipped a beat. They’re very well-engineered machines.”

Durability is the Rovver X’s calling card. Bingham says Ellingson’s oldest Rovver X has logged 294,000 feet of inspections, while the other two units have logged 181,956 and 265,189 feet.

Bingham also praises the Rovver X’s ability to televise while underwater. He says it’s not unusual for the machine to do so for a few feet at a time, as long as it travels slowly. “You usually only get one shot at it, though, because after you stir up the water, it’s hard to see.”

Ellingson now owns three Rovver X cameras, and they’ve become instrumental to operations at the company, which does everything from pipe bursting, sliplining and pipe lining to horizontal directional drilling and pipeline assessments and inspections. The company employs about 230 people and primarily serves customers nationwide in the agriculture, oil and gas, water and wastewater, power, and telecommunications industries.

The Rovver X features three different body sizes that can inspect 4- to 96-inch-diameter pipes; steerable, overlapping six-wheel drive for traversing offsets and debris; a zero-degree turning radius for maximum maneuverability in curved inverts; compact footprint; 1/4-inch-diameter, 1,000-foot-long Kevlar cable with 1,000-pound break strength and stored on an automated reel; simultaneous control of multiple camera functions; 12 quick-change wheel options; remote-control capability; and the ability to view and record digital video, log observations, generate reports for clients and link directly to asset management software. Optional lateral launch, side-scanning and laser-profiling systems are also available.

Ellingson crews had used push cameras for inspections, but their limited cable length hurt productivity and prompted the company to rethink its options. “Because the cables were so short, we often had to dig a lot of access points before we could find the problem,” Bingham says. That’s not an issue now, thanks to the Rovver X’s 1,000-foot cable. (An optional 1,640-foot-long cable is also available.)

“With a 1,000-foot cable, we can go down one manhole and inspect in both directions, covering a lot of ground. But it’s different with interior commercial jobs, where there are fewer access points and a lot of bends in pipes that put the machine and cable at higher risk. Those jobs are much rougher on equipment because we’re continually taking the camera in and out of pipes.”

But the Rovver X’s compact footprint reduces the odds of getting stuck. “The Rovver X is easy to run, too,” Bingham adds. “Running it is pretty self-explanatory — you don’t need a doctorate degree to learn how to operate it.

“That’s important because it shortens the learning curve. If we get a new guy, we can train him on the fly in the field. With other machines, you need classroom training to learn how to run it, so you’re potentially losing productivity out in the field.”

In addition, the Rovver X’s compact size and transportability enables the company to deploy them from customized wheeled carts instead of expensive camera trucks. The carts make it easier to work in tight quarters inside a plant or to access remotely located manholes in swamps or farm fields where a camera truck can’t go. “They’re like toolboxes on wheels,” he says of the carts. “If you’re tied to a truck, you can only go so far.”

At roughly $100,000 apiece, the Rovver Xs represent a significant capital investment. But they also improve productivity and generate repeat business by helping crews complete jobs on time and on budget. “They often cut work time in half because we can see what we’re up against before we start working.”

As such, the return on investment makes the Rovver X a worthwhile purchase. “As long as you keep up with the general maintenance, they’re going to last,” Bingham says. “And if they do break down, Envirosight is really good at repairing and returning them quickly or sending us one to use while the broken one gets repaired.

“They’ve been a great investment for our company. They do everything we’ve asked them to do.” Even when they’re in hot water.


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