Robot seeks work as fuel tank inspector

CNN News - From Science Correspondent Ann Kellan

November 19, 1998

(CNN) -- A robot named Maverick that looks like a suitcase
on steroids could offer a practical way to protect against
fuel tank leakage.

Around the world, billions of gallons of gasoline and jet
fuel are stored in huge tanks. If those tanks leak, the
poisonous chemicals they contain can seep into the ground

The potential hazard makes inspecting the tanks a high
priority, but it is a tedious and expensive undertaking,
which puts the tanks temporarily out of commission.

"You have to drain it, you have to take all of the sludge
out of it," said Don Hartsell of Solex Robotics, the maker
of Maverick. "That's going to cost anywhere between $30,000
to $500,000."

Using the robot system would bring that figure down
significantly, Hartsell added. "We're looking at an 80
percent or more savings over the cost of taking a tank out
of service."

Maverick performing in an underwater test

Maverick can enter a full tank and work its way methodically
along the floor, remotely controlled by an operator on the

The robot uses ultrasound to measure the thickness of the
metal. A sonar positioning system keeps track of the robot's
location, so any thin spots in the metal can be found and

Solex says that besides saving money and benefiting the
environment, the robot system improves conditions for
workers involved in the inspection process, because they no
longer have to enter the tanks.

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