Learning to Crawl: CCTV Inspection Is About More Than Robotics

Before potential CCTV operators are considered for training, they should show a desire to learn, be self-motivated and have a wealth of common sense

Learning to Crawl: CCTV Inspection Is About More Than Robotics

Maintenance worker Brent Scudder of the Florence (Kentucky) Public Service Department guides the progress of a camera tractor through a portion of a sewer system. The video is instantaneously sent back to the main office. (Photos by David Sorcher)

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A couple hallmarks of good CCTV inspection operators are resourcefulness and an abundance of common sense when it comes to solving safety issues and problems with equipment. But how do you find — or rather, develop — workers with this skillset? What does it take to become a CCTV operator?

One of the key traits Matt Timberlake, president of Ted Berry Co., says he looks for in an operator is initiative. “You not only have to be savvy with technology, but you need to be savvy enough to adapt. You need to be a continual learner. That’s at the core of the really good CCTV operators out there.”

While the enticing salary and the promise of working with robotics may attract people to sewer and water systems, CCTV inspection operator is by no means an entry-level job. “You shouldn't be a CCTV operator unless you know how sewer systems function and how manholes work and how they don’t work,” says Timberlake. Once those basics are covered, CCTV inspection training can begin.

Michael Kerr, National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) training director, says a good CCTV inspection operator has a desire and ability to learn and is a self-motivated individual. He says that today’s inspection operators not only need to be skilled at manipulating the robot, but inspections operators must also interpret what they are seeing.

Gradual training

Both Kerr and Timberlake suggest a gradual training program. One where a candidate is working alongside an experienced operator to get to know the equipment and to observe how the operator codes.

Once trained on the robotics, Timberlake sends his operators for NASSCO Pipeline Assessment (PACP) and Inspector Training (ITCP) certifications. Operators can then work independently on smaller diameter pipe to build experience until finally, they become what he refers to as the “elite crews” of pipe inspection — the operators who are inspecting 100 plus inch pipes.

Steve Sebastian, national training manager for Envirosight, says that as robots progress and are equipped with better cameras and sensors for other data, the information they gather combined with software analysis helps minimize variances in operator perception. Meaning, the software will be able to accurately determine if a pipe is 30 percent blocked or if it’s more like 50 percent. Better accuracy could mean the difference between a relatively inexpensive repair and a costly pipe replacement. However, that level of sophistication will require more skill and training for the operators. 

Envirosight uses a support network all across the U.S., and those partners are responsible for training the end user. Sebastian says the company’s approach is to teach operators the basics of the equipment and give them a few weeks to put that training into use in real-life scenarios. Local support is what makes this staged approach to training possible.

“We don’t want to overwhelm them with the fancy stuff until they are capable of handling the basics,” says Sebastian. Once the operator has the basics down the trainer comes back to cover the reporting software and other functionalities of the robot.

Given that fact that these robots can be significant investments for municipalities and contractors, it’s no wonder resourcefulness and common sense are traits companies are looking for. Also, let us not forget that CCTV inspections operators are not just responsible for their equipment, but they are also responsible for crew and public safety.


About the Author: Traci Browne is a freelance writer specializing in the fields of manufacturing, robotics, industrial technology and engineering. She can be reached at traci@tracibrowne.com.



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