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Robots Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

When Hurricane Sandy flooded natural gas lines maintained by Consolidated Edison and National Grid, the firms didn’t send in large repair crews: The emergency teams they deployed were quite small, in fact, and not at all human.

With a little help from Bay Shore-based ULC Robotics, the companies deployed small militias – specially designed, remote-controlled units armed with motorized cameras and fiberglass cables, everything they’d need to drain the floodwaters from the gas lines.

ULC Robotics developed the mechanical devices based on specific requests by the utility companies, installing “dewatering cameras” and the specialized cables, which essentially vacuum up water. From there, it was a simple matter of drilling small holes in the pipes and getting to work, noted ULC Robotics President Gregory Penza.

The utilities didn’t even have to shut off the gas, a giant leap forward from the less efficient, more dangerous work done by human crews.

“Once you locate the water, it allows you to pump it out in a more efficient manner and restore gas service more quickly,” said George Ragula, distribution technology manager at PSEG, which uses the ULC devices to repair its New Jersey gas lines.

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