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April 1, 2021
ABB launches world’s fastest, most sensitive drone-based leak detection and greenhouse gas measuring system

HoverGuard™ can help operators of USA’s three million miles of pipeline infrastructure to increase their safety and environmental capabilities in line with the USA 2020 PIPES Act.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the majority of gas shipments in the US take place using the millions of miles of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure. On December 27, 2020, the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act was signed into law in the United States. The Act directs gas pipeline operators to use advanced leak detection technologies to protect the environment and pipeline safety.

Detection of odorless and invisible gas leaks can be challenging and expensive. ABB’s latest addition to its ABB Ability™ Mobile Gas Leak Detection System, HoverGuard, provides the solution by finding leaks faster and more reliably than ever before. 

HoverGuard is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based system that detects, quantifies and maps leaks up to 300 ft from natural gas distribution and transmission pipelines, gathering lines, storage facilities, and other potential sources quickly, safely and reliably. It automatically generates comprehensive digital reports that summarize results and can be shared in minutes after a survey.

The cloud-connected, multi-gas solution is also the first of its kind to quantify the three most important greenhouse gases methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor continuously while flying. Each greenhouse gas affects the environment differently and is present in the air in different amounts. Sourcing individual gases also provides important information to scientists and researchers when studying the complex environmental processes affecting climate and pollution.

Patented cavity enhanced laser absorption spectroscopy detects methane with a sensitivity more than 1,000 times higher than conventional leak detection tools. This sensitivity and speed allow HoverGuard to detect leaks while flying at altitudes of 130 ft, or higher, and at speeds greater than 55 mph. It can cover 10-15 times more land area per minute by operating on low-cost commercial UAV capable of carrying a payload of 6.6 lbs.

“HoverGuard represents an important step-change in gas leak detection both in terms of safety and the environment.” said Doug Baer, Ph.D., ABB Global Product Line Manager of Laser Analyzers. “Previously inspectors had to rely on slow, qualitative, analog sensors or expensive delicate cameras to find leaks. Our groundbreaking solution effectively probes otherwise inaccessible locations to increase safety across the pipeline network. It detects and maps natural gas leaks around hard-to-reach sites such as bridges, areas with right-of-way restrictions or vegetation coverage and storage assets.”

HoverGuard complements ABB’s existing gas leak detection offerings, the vehicle-based MobileGuard™, hand-held MicroGuard™ and stationary EverGuard™ (to be launched later in 2021), to form the most comprehensive platform to detect, map and quantify leaks quickly, reliably, and accurately throughout the entire natural gas infrastructure, including upstream, midstream, downstream, and gas utilities.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a leading global technology company that energizes the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future. By connecting software to its electrification, robotics, automation and motion portfolio, ABB pushes the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels. With a history of excellence stretching back more than 130 years, ABB’s success is driven by about 105,000 talented employees in over 100 countries. www.abb.com

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