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Innovator

Pipe Trek: Deep Trekker’s Hi-Tech Inspection Robots

Every man-made structure eventually wears out. Municipal pipelines—some of which are more than 100 years old—are no exception. As infrastructure ages, the risk of breaks, cracks, and leaks grows. By conducting frequent routine inspections, cities and municipalities can discover issues before they become serious problems.

To make sure that their pipelines meet regulatory requirements and performance standards, cities and municipalities are turning to trenchless technology, including pipe crawlers. Deep Trekker is one company that is developing new ways to make inspections simple, efficient, and more cost effective. Deep Trekker’s pipe crawlers are portable robotic systems with onboard cameras that allow for regular maintenance and inspections on pipes 6 inches in diameter and larger.

Deep Trekker is a leader in the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) industry, providing various portable ROVs and pipe crawler systems to a wide variety of industries around the world. In 2003, founder and chief executive officer Jeff Lotz designed and built an ROV called the DTG1, including all its mechanical and electrical components. In 2011, he followed it up with a second low-cost, high-quality ROV, the DTG2, which was designed with ease of use, reliability, and portability in mind.

Deep Trekker sold its first unit in 2011 and has since grown from a small company building robots in Mr. Lotz’s basement to a company with over 40 employees, six robotic vehicle lines, and customers in over 80 countries around the world.

Deep Trekker introduced its first pipe crawler system, the DT340, in 2016 and saw huge success within the municipal water industry. Deep Trekker’s business model is based on interacting with customers and adopting feedback to enhance its products. “Customer feedback is our numberone focus,” says Cody Warner, a business development lead. The DT340 received positive reviews for its portability, effectiveness, and ease of use.

The DT340 can fit into a pipe as small as 8 inches or as large as 36 inches in diameter and perform Pipeline Assessment Certification Program inspections with a camera head in the center of the pipe. The DT340 can be customized to include various attachments, depending on the project at hand. Customers worked with Deep Trekker to help facilitate the introduction of a smaller pipe crawler, the DT320 Mini Pipe Crawler, which can fit into pipes as small as 6 inches in diameter. The company began shipping units in August 2018.

Deep Trekker prides itself in providing affordable units. The DT340 starts at just under $13,000 and, depending on the package and attachments, caps at approximately $50,000. The DT320 comes with all the attachments and options necessary for a 6- to 12-inch pipe and sells at a flat cost of $26,000. Deep Trekker has sold several hundred units of the DT340 since 2016, and orders are already rolling in for the DT320.

One of the factors that set Deep Trekker’s pipe crawlers apart is portability. Both crawlers are designed with portability in mind, allowing operators to load the unit into a pickup truck or on the back of an ATV. Deep Trekker pipe crawlers are also remarkably easy to use. “There really isn’t any training involved. Someone can just pick it up, and it is easy to understand what to do to move the vehicle,” says Mr. Warner.

Each crawler comes with a remote controller that allows for intuitive piloting and significantly reduces the operational learning curve. Not only are Deep Trekker’s crawlers portable and easy to use, they are also fully submersible. Deep Trekker uses magnetic coupling at various seal points to ensure that the crawlers are completely waterproof.

Finally, both the DT340 and DT320 are fully compatible with traditional pipe inspection software, such as WinCan asset management software. “By conducting regular inspections and prioritizing repairs, you are going to make sure that your repair dollars, the money you are spending on new construction and lining new pipes, is being spent in the right places. You’ll make your budget much more effective and save money along the way,” says Mr. Warner.

The municipal infrastructure industry is one of Deep Trekker’s largest markets, and municipal water districts in the United States make up a significant portion of its customer base. Deep Trekker is committed to providing its customers with industry-leading technology, first-class customer support, and unparalleled innovation. Every pipe wears out eventually—but with Deep Trekker’s pipe crawlers, municipal water districts can care for their infrastructure with precision, confidence, and ease.

For more information, contact Deep Trekker at (226) 400-0073 or deeptrekker.com.