Innovative Thinking Leads to Safer Utility Survey

As part of our work with Carnegie Mellon University, Wiley|Wilson needed to conduct a series of manhole (utility) surveys on the campus. Going down into manholes involves a lot of logistics and requires hours to set up ventilation and PPE. Project Manager Mark Atkinson thought maybe there was an easier (and safer!) way to go about this task using a 360-degree camera. But how?

Our team of engineers attached the camera to a 9-foot selfie stick and used the camera to capture the information needed. They also devised a way to illuminate the dark manhole: put a large, super-bright, battery-operated construction light on a chain and lower it into the manhole to light it up. The camera was controlled by an app on a smartphone.

The team was conducting surveys to capture various sets of information. One was data about the school’s telecommunications infrastructure campus pathways and how the utilities are routed between buildings. “We surveyed 25 different manholes and photographed each one so we could tell what pathways are at each location, their sizes, and if they were full or had space for more cable for the future,” Jared Lilly, member of Wiley|Wilson’s Technology Systems group, explained. Jared added that this approach not only saved time and effort but was also much safer. “This method reduced the risk of standing in water and mud or stepping on cables that can cause an outage.”

The survey team said the device worked exactly as intended. This method helped them to safely and quickly capture the spaces.