Robot being used to inspect drains across Texas

A robot made by the same company that helped save the trapped Chilean miners back in 2010 is being used to inspect storm drains across Texas. The state’s only operator is based in Austin.

"So, this is Wall-E," TxDOT Maintenance Technician John Gordon said.

It’s a stainless-steel robot with a light on top, has multiple cameras, has about 950 feet of cable attached to it, and it’s controlled with an X-box remote.

Wall-E has been used to inspect storm drains across Texas for about 10 years.

"These are our culvert systems and drainage systems that take the water away from the traveling public on the highways and roads," Gordon said.

Wall-E’s lone operator drives it into the drains.

"We want to keep these storm drains clean and clear," Gordon said, "We’re looking for debris, hazards, any obstruction, or any deformities in the storm drain."

Gordon can see what’s inside on a monitor inside the TxDOT vehicle.

"We’re trying to keep up with times and to make it safer, easier to operate, collecting the data with it, what’s underground and how our systems are," Gordon said.

He said sometimes Wall-E comes across critters.

"I’ve seen snakes, pretty big snakes and some have tried to bite Wall-E," Gordon said. "Of course, the snakes can’t hurt it."

Wall-E's TxDOT operators

That’s one of the advantages of using this technology and not a person going into the drain.

"We don’t have to send somebody in there to be in jeopardy of being hurt," Gordon said.

In 2010, Wall-E’s distant relative helped find the 22 Chilean miners who were stuck underground for more than three months when a mine collapsed.

"It does help save lives," Gordon said.