Little helper: Robot assesses damage from storms

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
News 12 First at Five

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Most of the time when storms hit as they did on Sunday, cleanup crews are called in. But Columbia County calls in a robot to help check areas cleanup crews can't get to.

A stormwater camera vehicle, better known as a robot dog, is what crews are going to use. They're going to put a robot into a stormwater drain and the robot can actually get down in there and assess any damage or debris that there might be.

With that new vantage point, crews can explore Columbia County under the ground.

"With this new technology, you can actually get in and see what every pipe looks like, what every joint in pipes," said Michael Zahner.

Michael Zahner is the stormwater utility manager. He works with the robot dog nicknamed buddy-rover doing inspections every day.

"It goes in it looks for debris, it looks for joints in the pipe that are bad and we take that information and make work orders," said Zahner.

They also use it to get ready for storms.

"Our role is more of a preventative maintenance when we know a storm is coming or in route to hit. We'll go out and look at all the pipes," said Zahner.

They hit the spots known to flood and clear out any debris with the help of the truck.

"These systems are only designed to hold a certain amount of water, but the more you can keep clean, the better it works during a rain event," said Zahner.

A month ago an EF-2 level tornado with 120 mph wind hit Columbia County. Roofs were ripped off homes, trees, and debris scattered across the road

For the most part, flooding was not an issue and Michael says that's all thanks to buddy rover.

"We knew it was coming and we were able to prepare for the storm and really had minimal damage," said Zahner.

This is a set of eyes where eyes can't be.

There are over one-million feet of drains in the stormwater fee area of Columbia County. Each pipe gets inspected every one to five years.

Buddy rover works almost every day, going neighborhood to neighborhood and he gets really busy when storms roll our way.