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A pipe-crawling drone helps anticipate and rationalise dredging operations

Thanks to its partnership with a Carnot Institute, SARP, a subsidiary of French group Veolia Environment, is able to offer a faster and economical assessment to local communities with its new drone "PREDIRE".

Supporting Innovation

List Carnot SARPThe use of video to inspect sewer pipes for maintenance work has been in use for quite a while. But such a solution quickly reaches its limits in the case of a partially clogged drain. With PREDIRE, the exploratory analysis can be carried out whatever the environment. Indeed, the fully autonomous unmanned vehicle can move across a broad variety of terrains (grease, mud, sand) by means of a worm screw propulsion system and climbs up and down obstacles very easily.
The wireless and pilotless explorer can travel distances up to 1.2 km per day. The robot is able to take high-definition photos every 10 seconds, thus providing the teams with the necessary data to estimate what is actually needed in terms of dredging operations or in relation with the sections to be treated.
This most effective preventive economical maintenance process therefore allows to save on very costly operations.

The client needs

SARP, a subsidiary of French group Veolia Environment, results from mostly the aggregation of several, sometimes 100-generation old, family-run businesses.
The 150 agencies making the group provide sewer maintenance for the municipalities and local communities.
Dredging clean-up operations require heavy equipment fitted with high-pressure pumps. The company has asked to limit this type of maintenance operation to a strict minimum by way of preventive inspections since 2014. To this end, SARP made field requirements to the TN@UPSaclay Carnot Institute (CEA LIST).
Now four years later, PREDIRE is able to move across pipes up to 20-30 cm diameter, ie accross 70% of the sewer network. The data thus collected has enabled SARP to significantly improve its knowledge and learn about the sewing pipes by implementing a reliable predictive maintenance strategy. SARP is able to provide its 100 000 customers, as a result, with a very innovative and competitive cost-constrained service offering, including both a drone pre-diagnosis and dredge optimisation.


The CEA LIST is a tech institute dedicated to smart digital systems and is labelled as TN@UPSaclay Carnot Institute. In response to SARP’s needs, without any technological a-priori, the teams collaborated iteratively by applying the so-called Archimedes screw or worm screw for the propulsion system. Linked to a dedicated control system the drone scans and refines its approach, as it moves through the detected environment.
Two patents protect this innovation, moved to a state of industrialisation at the end of 2018.
The Carnot researchers have worked from an expression of requirements. They have managed to apprehend all issues and constraints and conceive a built-in system through a collaborative R&D interactive partnership. The robust PREDIRE inspection system is already being operated by SARP and has been introduced on newly gained markets. Used internally for now, the device could well be marketed widely in the near future.


A joint laboratory shared with Carnot TN@UPSaclay gives Sherpa Engineering entry into the autonomous vehicle market

This type of joint partnership with a Carnot Institute provides the SME with both the flexibility and responsiveness needed. Such collaboration offers a very efficient tool for the design of AV’s.

Supporting Innovation

For all the designers as well as engineers, modelling, simulation and control are key stages of the systems engineering process. Nevertheless, the design phase runs into feasibility and product depiction issues. To address these concerns, Sherpa Engineering and Carnot TN@UPSaclay1 have agreed to share their efforts in terms of research and innovation capacities within a joint laboratory.

Such close co-operation has resulted in the development of ‘PhiSystem’, an innovative environment for the construction of models for complex process-oriented systems.Its key competitive advantage: by providing a function approach to derive the architecture and the components, the solution enables to integrate the most comprehensive complex systems. Customisable and SysML-based2, PhiSystem is particularly used within the context of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) studies by Renault and the RATP Group3.

1. List institute is labeled as « Carnot Institute » since 2006 (TN@UPSaclay Carnot Institute).
2. Systems Modelling Language.
3. Body responsive for the transport system in Greater Paris

The client needs

Montage photos SherpaThanks to its workforce of about 100 employees Sherpa Engineering has been conducting engineering studies for 20 years. The SME was able to capitalise on its experience from hundreds of projects and have its own R&D facilities. This allows the enterprise to channel concerns quickly and efficiently from various clients subject to considerable competitive pressure across their lines of business. In order to respond to the biggest challenges facing AV’s, including in terms of complex issues at both a reliability and safety level, there was a need to further develop an appropriate and most productive framework.

To increase interactivity over several years, Sherpa Engineering and Carnot TN@UPSaclay have mutually agreed on a joint laboratory so as to reduce the information exchange and validation phases. Undertaken in close synergy, the developments are more rapidly achieved and are directly processed as required.

The PhiSystem environment streamlining the various processes has emanated from the choice of both Papyrus4 as a tool and SysML as a modelling language, and proximity of the teams. To meet its industrial customers' specific requirements, Sherpa Engineering can thus offer them a new and efficient engineering service, based on a standardised model-oriented methodology and status as a key expert in its field.


The TN@UPSaclay Carnot Institute has developed a sought after know-how in the area of digital intelligent systems based on its own technological bricks. To help develop increasingly complex industrial systems, the Institute makes use of an easily customisable software/system engineering platform to suit the business needs.

The Institute’s experience on this type of adaptive and responsive partnership with enterprises of all sizes have allowed it to suggest such initiative of a joint laboratory to Sherpa Engineering to exploit their complementary design and modelling skills. The launching of ‘PhiSystem’ during ‘#techday#cealist’ on 14th March 2017 has fully exposed the simultaneous time saved to make productivity improvements and cost-reduction opportunities, as well as shown the partnership approach to be valid and innovating.

The joint laboratory is a major asset for the SME as it contributes to maintaining its digital engineering leadership position: PhiSystem has made quite a splash among the French professionals giving Sherpa Engineering an entry into the Japanese market.

4. Papyrus : open-source unified modelling language tool


Diota becomes the first French publisher of Augmented Reality software for industrial use

Technological success for a recently launched start-up supported by TN@UPSaclay Carnot Institute1.

Supporting Innovation

diota carnotCommercial success for Diota’s Augmented Reality (AR) software solution for the Manufacturing Industry is already under way. It offers above all new ways to get everyone acquainted with a new manufacturing, control and maintenance format. The primary asset of such leading-edge technology for the List institute: a model-based markerless 3D tracking device for object identification linked to a multi-criteria information overlay module. Second asset: a gateway connecting the software and Industrial Information Systems directly to each other.

1. List institute is labeled as « Carnot Institute » since 2006 (TN@UPSaclay Carnot Institute).

The client needs

The DiotaPlayer solution enables the improvement of manufacturing efficiency through the interaction between the digital data interfaces and the workspaces. Diota’s AR software solutions empowers all human operators performing time-continuous operation tasks to simplify data collection using markerless technique while providing enhanced ergonomics. Via a link-up with the Corporate information system DiotaPlayer makes it possible for the operators to receive the 3D models created from the 3D scanned data at both plant and production line levels. Into the bargain, higher productivity gains and quality outcomes leading to a reduced number of resultant manual inspections.


The List institute research efforts are devoted to developing digital intelligent systems aiming to specifically meet the challenge of the Factory of the future. The teams as of 2009 have become involved in the project by supporting Diota’s start-up, also by bringing its expertise in the AR field. The fruitful partnership has given the start-up the opportunity to appeal to a vast number of large corporate groups but also SMBs using AR for communication purposes or to highlight their product portfolio. TN@UPSaclay Carnot Institute, which collaborates closely with Diota, helps them continue writing their success story on a worldwide scale. With Safran and CEA Investissement’s entry in the stock of Diota, along with a doubling of the present level of its personnel, the start-up is stepping up its industrial development strategy.