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Robot Tunnels Through Hard Rock


Petra robotic boring machine

Petra successfully completed of a 20-foot demonstration tunnel through the hardest rock on earth, it says.

Petra used a hard rock boring-robot, which it says will transform the way all utilities are buried underground by tackling the hardest problem in underground construction: how to bore utility tunnels reliably and cost-effectively through nightmare geologies.

“Petra successfully completed a 20-foot bore through hard Sioux Quartzite, where we averaged an astounding 1 inch per minute in a geology usually excavated by dynamite,” said Kim Abrams, CEO and co-founder, in a prepared statement.

“In the past, there have only been a handful of costly and inefficient methods for tunnel construction, starting with manual tools and evolving to the modern tunnel-boring machine. Our noncontact method is the next evolution of tunneling and will usher in a new age of undergrounding utilities. By delivering the first non-contact, boring-robot that affordably undergrounds utilities through bedrock, we can protect communities around the world from exposure to wildfires and ensure the safety of critical infrastructure in disaster-prone areas.”

Petra’s noncontact, thermal-drilling method can bore micro tunnels through hard rock, according to the company, at diameters between 20 and 60 inches. Petra also offers reverse-tunneling technology, making machine maintenance and cutter head rescue possible.

Petra thermal boring machine

DCVC, a Deep Tech venture firm, has invested 30 million in the robotics company.

“At DCVC we’re committed to investing in companies that are building solutions to make our society’s infrastructure more resilient. Petra’s ability to bore tunnels in bedrock is transformational for global utilities and innumerable other applications,” said Dr. Chris Boshuizen, DCVC partner and co-founder of Planet, in a statement. “Petra’s tunneling technology is providing a safer, faster, and more cost-effective option for all underground infrastructure - electricity, water, sewage, and enables projects the world would never have been able to do before.”

Petra advisor Bob Foster said in a statement:

“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. 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.”

Source: Petra

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