Zenith allowed inspectors to stay out of confined space and off of shaft ladders to descend and inspect the vertical access points leading underground.


The data collected by Zenith’s automated inspection technology is a vast improvement from traditional methods, allowing inspectors to see defects and perspectives beyond eyesight.

Customer Needs

Due to PHMSA 49 CFR 192 guidelines requiring a 3-year monitoring inspection for atmospheric corrosion of exposed pipeline and general integrity, Peoples Gas in Downtown Chicago needed to inspect the vertical shafts leading to a network of underground tunnels for natural gas distribution and Transmission Pipelines.  Peoples Gas is in the process of remediating all of these shafts and asked Interactive Aerial’s Service Team to perform an inspection on both older and the new vertical shafts.

Past inspections have been completed by inspectors climbing down the ladders in the older shafts and using standard off the shelf cameras for data collection.  The cameras would differ from time to time, so the picture quality was always changing. Inspectors note the big defects they can see with their eyes, but could be missing much smaller defects.  The inspector was also limited to what perspective they can see from the ladder (cannot see behind pipes and beams on the other side).

Peoples Gas needed to resolve two issues with their current process: safety and data collection.  The company wanted to eliminate the need for human entry into a dangerous, confined space and the use of older ladder systems.  They also wanted 100% asset coverage with reliable and practical data that exceeded traditional methods.

Our Solution

Interactive Aerial completed the vertical shaft inspections with Zenith. The Zenith utilized many advanced systems, allowing for easy inspections of the vertically confined assets.  The unit has a stabilized camera capable of capturing 4K video and 18MP photos with a 30x optical zoom.  Hanging from a cable and free spinning bearing allows for unlimited rotation, which enables the operator to see virtually any spot inside the shafts.  Lowering into assets is a breeze with the included battery-powered Smart Winch system, requiring no manual operation during the asset inspection.

Due to the older asset’s entry point being offset, the IA Service team configured Zenith’s Tripod into one of many of its Multiple Configurations.  Before entering the Zenith down the vertical shaft, the IA team lowered a Gas Detection Monitor on the cable of the Smart Winch System to be sure there were no natural gas plumes or leaks.  Once the asset was deemed safe, the Zenith went to work to fully cover the entire asset with ease.

Rusted Ladder in Vertical Shaft
Zenith inspecting Vertical Shaft in Chicago

The results

The main purpose of inspecting these vertical shafts was to look at the general integrity of the entire asset.
How did atmospheric corrosion affect the exposed natural gas pipe?  Was there any shaft infrastructure degradation that threatened the high pressure distribution pipeline?  Zenith gave these results and more with the ability to track corrosion rate through our measurement software and tag the location for
each photo.

The automation mode used a combination of horizontal and vertical panoramas taken by the auto-stabilized 18MP camera.  This simple-to-use automation feature ran smoothly and quickly.

Peoples Gas has determined that Zenith and inspection robotics are a viable alternative to traditional confined space entry.  Tools like Zenith keep their inspectors safe on the ground, drastically reducing the risk of falling from a height, which according to OSHA is the number one cause of fatalities.  Zenith also provides a standardized data set, allowing their engineering team to effectively assess the health of their assets.

Upper elbow coating disbondment

Upper elbow coating disbondment

Drip Pot Piping Corrosion

Drip pot piping corrosion

Drip Pot piping corrosion - close up

Drip pot piping corrosion – Close Up


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