WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
Ken Peligren, owner of Pipe Eye Video Inspections, owes his success to a little coincidence and a good dose of ingenuity.
Well, this “non-techie” handyman has a thriving robot business.
Peligren began his professional life in logging and crafts. When he was in his thirties, he started his own business, Ken’s Contracting, a small excavation business outside of Nanaimo. In the early ’90s, tragedy called when the municipality of Nanaimo enacted a building code requiring all new plumbing and stormwater pipe installations to be inspected. He had to have a pipe he had laid inspected by the only company on the island offering this type of service – which was outside of Victoria – at a cost he described as “significant”. Rather than bemoan the inconvenience, Peligren explored the idea as a “business opportunity.”
Peligren’s search led him to a small robotics company called Inuktun Services that made CCTV inspection cameras for inspecting pipelines. He bought one of their cameras and then a used Budget rental car to store the equipment. He partnered with a local sewage treatment company with a vacuum truck and in May 1995 Pipe Eye Video Inspections was started. In 1996 he bought his own cleaning truck and “the need for CCTV pipe inspection/pressure cleaning services only seemed to grow,” says Peligren. Pipe Eye now operates four combo vacuum trucks and three video inspection trucks capable of inspecting pipes from two to ten meters in length.
To inspect pipelines, they are cleaned with vacuum trucks before special robots are used inside. The robots look like toy cars and consist of CCTV cameras mounted on small wheels or 16-inch tracks. Running on small DC motors, Peligren says, “You can’t stop them by hand – they’re so powerful.”
Because the company has so much to do with robots, Peligren often jokingly dreams about them. In one instance, he dreamed that robots “crawled up walls”!
Serving municipalities, regional districts and engineering firms, Peligren’s business inspects all types of underground pipelines, including sewage and storm pipes, marine drains, inlets for fish farms and shellfish plants, and BC Hydro dam pipes. Pipe Eye has even worked for the American Armed Forces in Anchorage, Alaska, inspecting a fuel line. Peligren commented, “It was quite interesting because you’re working right next to the F18s – like they’re coming down right next to you!”
In 2007, the company was called to search for miners after a mine collapse in Utah. Unfortunately, during the search, the mine completely collapsed and 27 miners were lost, along with one of Pipe Eye’s robots.
Peligren has worked throughout North America but after the 2008 market crash he sold his business and relocated to Vancouver Island where he has ministered from Ladysmith to Port Hardy and even Bella Bella. First Nations communities are now among its main customers.
Peligren and his wife Deb have a 1-acre residential property in Nanaimo that is their base of operations. They have a big shop there where they service and service their trucks and video equipment. Their 14 employees include truckers, divers, manual workers and “techies”.
Peligren says the business continues to grow each year and has even been “crazy busy” during the pandemic. He notes, “The phone rings every day.”
In 2017, the Peligrens bought a condo in Port Alice, which they use as a summer boating and fishing holiday.
Peligren confirms: “We love it up here. I hope to spend at least four to five months a year up here. It’s very quiet, peaceful… it hasn’t been ruined by the population.”
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