Articles & Case Studies


Posted: Tuesday 14th June 2016

Heathrow Airport is famous the world over as the UK's premier international airport. Some 80 airlines fly from Heathrow direct to over 180 destinations worldwide carrying on average around 200,000 passengers per day into and out of the UK from its five terminal buildings and the site still has plans for expansion.

Of course to ensure the smooth running of such a huge undertaking requires some major behind the scenes operations not least of which cover the ongoing management and maintenance of the utility services serving the airport.

Within this utility service management set-up the airport is served by some 530 km of surface water drainage, the effective operation of which is vital to the continuing workings of the airport's runways and aprons even during the worst of weather. There is also a network of some 120 km of foul sewers that also need to be continually maintained to handle the product of so many passengers, aircrew and other airport staff. Both networks are privately owned. Across the whole pipeline spectrum diameters vary from as small as 80 mm up to 1,800 mm diameter. The largest pipe yet to be surveyed is a main outfall measuring 2.9 m diameter which serves Terminal 5. Whilst surveying at this diameter may require some thought on which survey equipment to utilise, the report data will still be managed through WinCan Web.

To keep these network assets operating effectively there is an ongoing programme of work to meet the current regulatory requirements for maintaining standards of asset condition. The job is something akin to the painting of the Forth Road Bridge in that once the company's engineers have reached the end of one survey and maintenance round it effectively starts all over again. The inspection, assessment and maintenance works are fully underpinned using CCTV survey techniques and equipment.


Historically CCTV surveys have been undertaken in what might be termed the traditional way with cameras being passed through designated sections of the pipe network with video being recorded and notes being made on screen, and in printed reports to highlight defects in the network that might need to be assessed for future replacement or rehabilitation and repair works. Surveys have been recorded to DVD and the reports produced have been stored physically for access by those who need them. However, as with most such systems, there is no guarantee that the information is stored correctly or in a central location or that information has not been or may not be lost as the file is passed from one office to another.

So staff at Heathrow have been looking to develop and utilise a centralised information storage and access system that did not require the physical movement of data within the company, so as to make the management of the information simpler and easier to access from anywhere within the Heathrow operation.

To this end the asset management team recently worked with Woking, Surrey, UK-based CCTV reporting and data handling specialist WinCan Europe Ltd to launch its operations on the company's WinCan Web system.

With CCTV inspections being undertaken on contract by Tomato Plant, Heathrow's preferred survey specialist, survey reports, that are in general undertaken at night when the airport is at its least busy (some 80 to 90% of surveys are completed at night), can be completed and uploaded to the central WinCan Web software immediately on completion. From WinCan Web the reports can then be accessed, usually as quickly as the following day with the information being available to anyone with the required access protocols from whichever office needs it without the need to transport documents between sites.


Where the traditional system was falling short of requirements was that the paper based system whilst having information available in many cases often led to circumstances where unplanned network failures occurred which could be very costly to address for the airport authority simply because of the handling requirements and the timeframe in which the assets could be assessed by the engineering staff.

According to Paul Melvin, Asset Engineer (Water Systems) for Heathrow: "What the introduction of WinCan Web will allow us to do over time is move away from this physical handling of inspection reports and DVD's and allow us to have access to significant information on asset condition online and thereby enable us to plan for our regulatory investment periods more effectively and expedite pipe replacements or repairs that are most urgently required."

Whilst at present only some 15% of the Heathrow network is available with the current asset condition known, the availability of the WinCan Web software will mean that new surveys will be accessible more quickly. Although Paul did comment: "It may be some seven years or more before the whole network is fully surveyed and available through the WinCan Web system. But as we add more and more information we will be able to compare previous surveys with current ones and this will enable us to highlight potential areas of concern early and therefore potentially minimise the occurrence of unplanned events and in addition reduce impact on the airport operation and reduce the high costs involved in emergency responses. It is ultimately about asset management and showing value in what we do and why."

The information being placed on the Heathrow WinCan Web system will be linked with WinCan's Analyst software tool which offers a good visualisation of active location conditions and can highlight local hotspots that may need further investigation or maintenance work before they become a significant problem. Any additional survey works that may be required to supplement the original data collection and confirm any potential problematic areas in the network can also be uploaded to the WinCan Web system as and when required.

WinCan Analyst is a software system that is able to evaluate, manage and analyse sewer networks. The software is based on the WinCan VX platform, which secures a direct integration of the inspection data to the analysis, without a need to interchange the data, which could reflect in loss of specific information (like inclination measurement). One of the main values of WinCan Analyst is the seamless integration into different GIS Systems and the optimisation for high performance, also with high data volume. WinCan Analyst contains different functional areas: Management of status data of the sewer systems including their automated classification, analysis of the characteristics of the sewer systems in GIS systems, issue of statistics and reports as well as maintenance and rehabilitation planning for pipes and manhole systems.

One key part of the Heathrow set up is the use of WinCan Map VX which is a geographic information system for sewer networks. This software allows engineers to navigate and analyse inspection data using familiar GIS views and tools and Map VX accepts all major GIS data formats including ESRI, AutoCAD, DXF/DWG, MapInfo, OpenStreetMap, etc.

This highly flexible interface offers easier interaction where it can group interface elements according to function, resize them, and turn them on or off with interface customisations that can be saved for easy recall and sharing. Also when an asset position is unknown, WinCan Map VX can accept coordinates directly from a GPS unit and map it.

In terms of data visualisation, WinCan Map VX offers colour-code map elements according to asset attributes (material, age, profile, damage classification, etc.), and can then save those preferences as a template. Several standard templates also come with the software.

Given that during a mainline inspection, important information is gathered about lateral connections such as location, angle and clock position, WinCan Map VX can also use this data to display laterals on GIS maps, and to export them to DXF and Shape files and the whole process is fully scalable.

According to Paul Melvin: "Whilst our Wincan Web is currently operational it will take a little time to get up to speed on it as there is a requirement for staff to obtain the operational training to use the system effectively and efficiently. It will also take time for the engineering staff to understand how the new system can be best utilised going forward. However, we are already seeing advantages to using the system and expect to see more as time goes on, particularly once the most vital areas of the network have been added to the system."

Read the magazine online

August 2021

About the magazine »
Magazine archive »


Information for advertisers »

Pulsar New Banner
British Water buttonwood marketing Cranfield University Pulsar Button June 13 Huber Water Aid Harvey Communications wateractive