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Sewer line trouble? A robot to the rescue

| Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Right now, a robot could be crawling around under your house, making sure everything is OK with your sewer lines.

That mechanical friend -- Responder is its name -- will get a starring role on cable TV's History Channel at 9 p.m. today and 7 p.m. Saturday.

"Responder can help people stay out of the areas we call the 3-D places -- dirty, dark and dangerous," says Eric Close, CEO of Homestead's RedZone Robotics, makers of the 22-inch wide, 600-pound inspector.

The broadcast will be part of the History Channel's "Modern Marvel" series and also will feature a human from the company, chief technology officer Scott Thayer, talking about how the project uses sensors and lasers to create imagery in an area Close calls "completely opaque."

Close says Responder, a robot which has been under development for about 18 months, has been designed to examine areas that require constant maintenance and amount to about $5 billion a year in spending.

He calls the 600,000 miles of sewer lines in the nation "out most underappreciated form of infrastructure because nobody sees it."

The robot can fit through a manhole and make its way along sewer lines, sending back information about blockages and calling attention to flawed spots in lines before they become breaks.

Through its efforts, the robot, which also can do cleaning, can help avert the need to dig up and disconnect pipes.

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