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Inspection Robots to Assist in Michigan Sewer Sinkhole

April 25, 2017

Several RedZone Robotics inspection robots to be utilized in failed system:

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 A neighborhood in Fraser, Michigan, plagued with a massive sinkhole that has displaced families and caused the condemnation of several homes may soon see a solution, thanks to an inspection plan to be performed largely by robots.The county will soon be undertaking what is being described as the most comprehensive system inspection of the Macomb Interceptor Drainage Drain District, or MIDD. The system is currently being aided by bypass pumps, and sewage flow is being redirected around the site. Eleven communities are involved in that system. A 12-foot “shaft” currently exists at the site, where initial excavation has led to an even bigger hole.

Following the demolition of two condemned homes near the hole, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said no decision has yet been made on the third condemned home on Eberlein Drive. Macomb County purchased all three homes, and all valuables inside the homes have already been accounted for.

Related: Update: City Taps Massive Pipe Inspection Program to Pinpoint Sinkhole Cause

Justin Starr, vice president of technology for RedZone Robotics, spoke about the uncommon scenario the county finds itself. His company was contracted by the county for $1.5 million

Anytime we can put a robot in place of a human, that’s our goal”


“Our goal is to keep people out of pipelines as much as possible,” Starr told C&G Newspapers. “They’re dirty, and we’ve gotten a lot better in terms of safety. Anytime we can put a robot in place of a human, that’s our goal.”

The company’s “Mantis” model is its most advanced robot. It contains cameras that capture 360-degree images of the pipeline; it can measure cracks and defects in the pipe with laser scanning; and it has a spinning head that is akin to what Google uses on its self-driving vehicles.

While Starr spoke to the media, computer screens nearby displayed colored pixel images collected from the 360-degree capability.

The robots have different functions too. One robot deemed a submarine has sonar and can go completely underwater. Two autonomous robots described as “RedZone solos” can be lowered into manholes, can travel from one end of the pipeline to another, and can eschew any above-ground traffic to collect data.

“We like to say that we can collect tens of thousands of feet of data with these solos without anyone noticing because they can be deployed in 10 minutes. There’s no need for traffic control or closing busy streets, and you can replace the manhole lid while the inspection’s in process,” Starr said. “They could be inspecting in your neighborhood and you wouldn’t even know.”

The current estimation by RedZone referenced a four-month timetable. The county hopes to finish by mid-September, with the overall project — including repaving and reopening the road — being completed shortly after Thanksgiving.


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