As collection system owner-operators strive to do more with less, many seek to leverage technology. Not surprisingly, robotic condition assessment tools are assuming a greater role in the industry.

As a pioneer in robotic multi-sensor inspection technology (MSI) and the inventor of the industry’s only autonomous condition assessment tool, RedZone Robotics continues to provide the tools to help clients get the information they need and make it useful. Two cases where RedZone technology played a vital role are described below.

Kentucky SD1 Uses Robotics to Help Drive Efficiencies


Industry-Leading Robotic SolutionsLocated in northern Kentucky, Sanitary District 1 (SD1) manages the collection and treatment of Northern Kentucky’s wastewater, as well as regional storm water. SD1 is the second largest public sewer utility in Kentucky, serving more than 100,000 customers throughout Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. SD1 maintains approximately 1,600 miles of sanitary sewer line, 134 wastewater pumping stations, 15 flood pump stations, eight package treatment plants, three major wastewater treatment plants, nearly 440 miles of storm sewer and 31,800 storm sewer structures.

In 2008, under increasing public scrutiny and with mounting regulatory pressures, the SD1 team decided to implement comprehensive asset management best practices for collection system management. The key determining factors behind the decision were a recently negotiated EPA consent decree, rate increases of nearly 800 percent from 2000 to 2013, reactive practices and incomplete historical data.

SD1 director of collection systems Rich McGillis summarized the situation: “Even without the consent decree, we were determined to improve our practices to increase efficiency and reduce capital and operating costs. We challenged ourselves to make sure we were using the ratepayers’ dollars in the most cost-effective manner. We had to make process improvements that would increase efficiencies and productivity levels.”

The SD1 team realized that a successful asset management system depends on a complete baseline understanding of their assets. Historically, this baseline knowledge was unavailable, which made decision-making more difficult. “Knowing what we owned was a vital starting point to the program, as it underlies all other aspects of asset management. Although ‘What do I own?’ is a seemingly straightforward question, it is not always easy to answer when you are operating as if everything is an emergency and are constantly in a reactive mode,” added McGillis.

Industry-Leading Robotic Solutions With public scrutiny at its highest, SD1 was challenged to maximize all of its resources to the fullest extent. In order to achieve internal goals and meet regulatory requirements, it was going to be challenging given the current staff and equipment levels to perform the work. SD1 began researching other technology and ways to meet annual condition assessment requirements. In the process, RedZone SOLO autonomous condition assessment robots and ICOM3 software were indentified as the answer. The RedZone Solo robots appeared to be the solution to help assess 67 percent of the SD1 system and to increase condition assessment crew productivity on a daily basis. This was critical to rapidly achieving the desired baseline level understanding.

“Using the SOLO robots, we were able to use one maintenance crewmember to achieve a meaningful increase in daily assessment vs. the daily production of a conventional CCTV camera truck and multi-member crew. After becoming familiar with the SOLO robots in 2014, we set our sights on fine tuning the program for further improved results,” said McGillis.

Aided by a plan that was clearly communicated to all stakeholders and technologies that improved efficiencies, including RedZone’s SOLO robots, SD1’s best-business-practice-based asset management program has so far resulted in significant benefits to SD1. The SD1 team estimates that its program has generated avoidance cost-savings of more than $400,000 in its first year of implementation. Furthermore, SD1 went from seven in-house CCTV crews to five CCTV crews, with the same staff level to meet forecasted production levels. With the SOLO technology, the SD1 team achieved an increase of in-house inspection production by 110 percent while decreasing CCTV inspection costs by more than 25 percent. Dry weather SSOs were decreased by 54 percent and currently, SD1’s dry weather SSOs are 50 percent below the industry benchmark.

The SD1 asset management program has several key elements, including a genuine emphasis on the human side that creates team accountability, a continuous sewer assessment program (CSAP) and a keen focus on service levels. McGillis added, “A common denominator with all of these elements is simply knowing what you have, what condition the system is in relative to a desired level of service, and what happens if that level of service is lost. Once that information is obtained, making cost-effective decisions is simply making informed decisions. The RedZone SOLO robots have helped us rapidly obtain information that we did not previously have and get us to a state of making more informed decisions.”

King County Uses Robotics to Assess Critical Line


King County, Wash., is developing a comprehensive assessment program using advanced technology to manage its collection system. A recent single condition assessment effort, described below, spanned more than 2.2 miles or the near equivalent of 40 football fields laid out end to end.

The King County collection system serves local sewer districts in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, plus the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. The system’s interceptors and pump stations deliver the wastewater to treatment plants that are operated and maintained by King County. The East Side Interceptor for King County includes the Wilburton, Kennydale, Sunset and Hazelwood Tunnels, which combined, collect all the sewage from the cities and sewer districts on the east side of Lake Washington and transport the waste by gravity to the South Treatment Plant.

Conveyance inspection lead for the King County Conveyance Systems Lee Miller stated, “The East Side Interceptor is one of our most critical pipelines because the pipe runs under or near three major freeways, under railroad tracks and is adjacent to Lake Washington. The East Side Interceptor is so important that the county checks the condition every three years by in-pipe inspection, using the latest technology.”

Interactive Pipe Inspection (IPI Inc.), located in Tumwater, Wash., was awarded the competitive bid for five years of tunnel inspections for King County. To meet the extraordinary demands of this job, IPI teamed with RedZone Robotics to inspect the Eastside Interceptor tunnels.

One segment, the Hazelwood Tunnel, is 11,720 ft long with high velocity flows of more than 5 fps, in some cases. The terrain within Coal Creek is unique and provides challenges to accessing the county manholes that run parallel to Coal Creek with woods surrounding the area. The combination of Interstate 405 and the ravine landscape created a lengthy tunnel segment.

IPI president Dennis Smith noted, “We have teamed with RedZone on many challenging projects over the years and they continue to push the envelope of technology, and the limits of what is possible. This long and difficult inspection is another example.”

The most recent IPI inspection of the long Hazelwood Tunnel were completed using RedZone’s HD Profiler, a Multi-Sensor Inspection (MSI) platform that was chosen because it could be hand-carried to difficult access locations. The Hazelwood Tunnel deployment also required a special non-powered tether (more than 12,000 lf long) attached to a custom winch truck to either pull or release the platform.

With the innovative setup and deployment techniques of IPI, the RedZone HD Profiler collected MSI data for the entire pipe, from the only access point at the entry manhole to 11,720 ft at the exit. RedZone engineers had to modify the HD Profiler and its data collection procedures to be able to complete the long run and still have power. As the inspection proceeded, the velocity of the flow on the HD Profiler and winch increased with the distance out, and on the forces on the tag lines were extreme. King County inspector Steve Foss said, “The lines were so tight you could play them like a piano. Our fear was that if a tag line broke all the equipment would end up at the South Treatment Plant.”

Nonetheless, the inspection was successful and the tag lines were retrieved.
This was a unique deployment where ingenuity and advanced robotic technology prevailed. The HD Profiler covered the entire 11,720 lf in a single shift. Analysis of the HD Profiler’s multi-sensor information provided engineers with critical information about defects, sediment, and corrosion. A comparison with older data for the same tunnels revealed some minor changes to the pipe condition. More importantly, using synchronized multi-sensor CCTV, Sonar and Laser data, IPI and RedZone Robotics established the baseline results that will enable King County to better manage, prioritize and make well-informed decisions on its vast and critical infrastructure for years to come.
Ken Wolf is an executive vice president with RedZone Robotics.