WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
Ken Peligren, owner of Pipe Eye Video Inspections, owes his success to a little serendipity and a good measure of ingenuity.
Now, this tradesman who is “not a techie kind of guy” has a flourishing business working with robots.
Peligren started out his working life in logging and the trades. When he was in his thirties, he launched his own business, Ken’s Contracting, a small excavating business out of Nanaimo. In the early 90s, fate was calling when the municipality of Nanaimo passed a construction bylaw, requiring that all new installations of sanitary and storm pipelines be inspected. He was required to have some pipe he had laid be inspected by the only business on the Island providing that type of service—which was out of Victoria—and for a cost that he called “significant.” Rather than bemoan the inconvenience, Peligren investigated the idea as a “business opportunity.”
Peligren’s search led him to a small robotics company, called Inuktun Services, that produced CCTV inspection camera equipment for pipeline inspection. He purchased one of their cameras and then bought a used Budget rental van to store the equipment. He partnered with a local septic company with a vacuum truck, and, in May of 1995, Pipe Eye Video Inspections was launched. In 1996 he bought his own cleaning truck and, “The need for CCTV pipeline inspection/high pressure cleaning services only seemed to grow,” says Peligren. Pipe Eye now operates four combination vacuum trucks and three video inspection vans capable of inspecting lines from two to thirty feet long.
To inspect pipelines, they are cleaned out with vacuum trucks before special robots are deployed inside. Looking like toy cars, the robots are composed of CCTV cameras mounted on small wheels or 16-inch tracks. Running on little DC motors, Peligren says, “You can’t stop them by hand—they are that powerful.”
Since the company deals so much with robots, Peligren jokes he often dreams about them. In one instance he dreamt robots were “crawling up the walls!”
Peligren’s company services municipalities, regional districts and engineering firms, inspecting all kinds of underground pipeline, including sewage and storm lines, ocean outfalls, intakes for fish farms and shellfish plants and pipes in BC Hydro dams. Pipe Eye has even worked for the American Armed Forces in Anchorage Alaska, inspecting a fuel pipeline. Peligren commented that, “It was quite interesting because you’re working right alongside the F18s—like they’re coming down right beside you!”
In 2007, the company was called out to search for miners after a mine collapse in Utah. Unfortunately, as they were searching, the mine collapsed completely and 27 miners were lost, along with one of Pipe Eye’s robots.
Peligren has worked all over North America but, after the market crash of 2008, he sold his company and reestablished himself on Vancouver Island, serving from Ladysmith all the way to Port Hardy and even Bella Bella. First Nations communities are now one of his main customers.
Peligren and his wife Deb have a one-acre residential property in Nanaimo that is their base of operations. They have a large shop on it where they service and maintain their trucks and video equipment. Their staff of 14 includes truckers, divers, labourers and “techie guys.”
Peligren says the business continues to grow every year and that it has even been “crazy busy” during the pandemic. He remarks, “The phone rings every day.”
In 2017 the Peligrens bought a condo in Port Alice that they use as their summer getaway for boating and fishing.
Peligren affirms, “We love it up here. I hope to spend four or five months a year up here, at least. It’s very quiet, serene … it hasn’t been ruined by population.”
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