Creating underground utility tunnels through bedrock can be costly and time consuming. Now a San-Francisco robotics company has created a boring robot to do the heavy lifting for you!
Petra’s new robot utilizes a thermal spallation drilling process that creates small tunnels 20-60 inches in diameter by aiming high-energy particles at the bedrock. This technology overcomes issues experienced by existing tunneling equipment where cutter heads break easily when encountering hard rock.
This makes installation of underground utilities easier, especially through difficult terrain. Underground installations are safe from storms, fires and other natural disasters.
Demand for energy infrastructure is set to rise by 50% over the next three decades, according to the Energy Information Association. That means Petra’s tunneling robot could help facilitate safer underground installations.
In a recent demonstration, the tunneling robot completed a 20-foot tunnel through Sioux quartzite bedrock at around 1 inch per minute.
“As the former President of SoCal Edison, I oversaw capital projects in urban, suburban and rural mountainous areas. A robot that can bury utility facilities in bedrock would have been a game-changer for us,” said Petra advisor Bob Foster. “In cities, it would allow us to bury utilities in bedrock, below the existing infrastructure. In mountainous areas, like the Sierra foothills, it would allow us to bury utilities in the most fire-prone regions of our state.”