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Given our team of urban designers, historians and city explorers, it should come as no surprise that we’re fascinated with the infrastructure that allows New York City to run efficiently. In the past, we touched upon steam systems and learned about the cryptic symbols you see spray painted on the streets. Now, a New York Times article sheds light on the robot that fixes New York City’s gas pipelines. 

According to The Times, the Cisbot’s (or cast-iron sealing robot) mission is to repair areas that could be “potentially leaky.” The benefit of utilizing this “21st Century Repairman” is that the gas supply to buildings doesn’t have to be cut off. This is worlds easier compared to the traditional way of replacing faulty gas mains, which generally requires a team of jackhammer-equipped workers to shut off the gas, block the roads and drill through the streets.

Developed by ULC Robotics, a Long Island-based company, the three-wheeled Cisbot is equipped with LEDs, sensors, a drill head and an injection device (to spray sealant into holes). Controlled by a technician inside a trailer, it’s been crawling under West End Avenue on the Upper West Side this month on behalf of Con Edison.

“Live internal joint sealing allows gas utilities to avoid the tremendous cost of cast iron pipe replacement or other forms of pipeline rehabilitation,” the company website reports. “ULC’s Robotic Joint Sealing service with CISBOT rehabilitates leaking joints, prevents joints from leaking and extends the life of your cast iron natural gas mains with minimal excavation and continuous service to utility customers.” With the Cisbot, Con Edison’s West End Avenue project cost only $400,000, compared to what would’ve ordinarily cost $1.5 to $1.8 million.

The Cisbot is reportedly “so reliable” that it’s also been used in other cities and countries, including in Boston, Britain and Ireland. As you can imagine, it’s encountered some interesting finds in the process, including stilettos in Brooklyn and an article about the 1939 World’s Fair.

Next, check out how cities Hide Infrastructure With Fake Townhouses and read more about NYC’s Infrastructure on Water, Garbage, Steam and Subway.

 infrastructure

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