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City of Dayton Streamlines City Services with Robots

(Wikimedia Commons)

Last week was a big week for robots: the Dayton Water Department signed a contract to look into using robots to inspect sewers, and the Public Works Department made a deal to acquire 18 new solar-powered trash compactors. City officials say automation in the city’s trash and sewers could save time and money.

Dayton already has a couple dozen of the automatic trash compactors, which Public Works director Fred Stovall says can hold about five times as much trash as standard cans. He calculates that investment has already saved the city $78,000, mainly in labor and fuel costs associated with making extra trips to empty overflowing cans in busy areas.

The city is also looking into using robots to inspect aging sewer lines.

Aaron Zonin with the Dayton Water Department says his sewer inspection crews could run four bullet-shaped sewer 'bots through smaller pipes at once. Right now a crew of three operates a single camera at a time in order to inspect small-diameter sewage lines.

“You don’t have to man them,” he said, “basically you put them into the sewer and they run down the line and back and then you can retrieve them, whereas the existing camera that we have right now has to be operated.”

Currently, inspecting Dayton’s 750 miles of sewers takes about 40 years. With robots, a full inspection could be complete every 10 years. The city will test the ‘bots as part of a $473,000 contract with Pittsburgh-based RedZone robotics signed last week, and decide within a year whether to acquire robots of its own. The majority of the contract is for RedZone to perform inspection services in the city’s larger sewage pipes, which can be difficult to access; those services, which are temporary for the year, will involve robotic cameras with laser imaging capabilities. Zonin says catching and resolving leaks or corrosion before they get out of control is ultimately a money-saver for the city.