ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Sewer robots sound like villains out of a Ninja Turtle movie, but in the City of St. Petersburg they could turn out to be the heroes.

  • Robots can serve as data collectors for sewer assessment
  • RedZone has already completed a pilot program with St. Petersburg
  • More Pinellas County headlines

After years of issues, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection put a consent order on the city of St. Pete to have 4.6 million linear feet of sewer checked and fixed by October 2023.

"It's a very old, aging system and you have to replace so much of it a year," said John Stanton, Wastewater Collection System Supervisor.

One problem is the city's current way of checking and fixing the pipes; it is too slow. Their teams can only cover 1,500 to 2,500 feet a day. This is where the unmanned robots will come into play, as data collectors for a systematic wide assessment.

"Data is really what we are trying to go after, because that helps a lot of these public work directors, these public works superintendents make better, informed decisions with regard to the assets that they own," said Chris White, Technical Sales Director of RedZone Robotics, Inc.

The unmanned sewer inspection robots are called Solo. And a single RedZone employee can send down multiple of them into one sewer line and within minutes get video images of current problems and backups.

"There is a lot of money that gets saved right up front with going in and finding out what is going on with the pipe via that CCTV and then cleaning where is necessary," said White.

RedZone has already completed a pilot program with the city too, so they are familiar with current challenges the city faces like elderly pipes, blocks, and rehabilitation issues. Come mid-August, RedZone is expected to sign a contract for the next fiscal year to go through 750,000 linear feet. And if that goes well, they will be signed on to do the entire project.

"Hitting 4.6 million in five years is a piece of cake," said White, confidently when asked if that would be a possible feat.

Once the contract is signed, the autonomous robots could be down in the sewers by September.

The cost to the city is $600,000 for the total contract.