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3 industrial robots making operations safer, cleaner and faster

Sponsored: Meet the Cyclops, the Cobra and the Gator.

This article is sponsored by Veolia.

It's a classic fear: Technology eventually will overthrow us. Robotics will become too intelligent for us to control, and numerous jobs will fall by the wayside. But while some innovations may be a security concern, we in the environmental sector only see robotics increasing safety and efficiency. And that doesn’t kill jobs — it creates opportunity.

Robotics isn't well known for its benefit to utilities, but a lot is happening in this field thanks to products designed to enter and clean hazardous spaces. Automation inherits these logistical tasks, according to a recent study, allowing staff to focus more on the work that generates revenue for the company. In the cleaning business, it has the bonus of making services not just resourceful, but safer at the same time. Here are three robots, as part of Veolia’s Hands Free technology, making community infrastructure more efficient while keeping human workers out of harm's way.


Industrial boilers help support plants and district energy networks in providing customers an efficient source of thermal energy. But these facilities also need an efficient way to inspect each boiler, without taking them offline, so they can deliver consistent service. They need someone to be its eyes — or, rather, eye.

Meet Cyclops, a high-temperature camera developed by Veolia North America, a world-leading environmental services company. This tough, rod-shaped robot uses a single lens to probe the inside of a working boiler to determine its condition and what type of cleaning it needs. Cyclops sends images in real time back to an external monitor so operations teams can better see and understand problem areas.


For industrial cleaning projects, inspection is only part of the equation. And if Cyclops is the scout, Cobra is most certainly the infantry.

This impressive vehicle delivers a 500-horsepower stream of water through a hydraulic arm to remove even the toughest industrial deposits from onsite equipment. At the end of this arm is a unique rotating head that ensures no debris is left unreached, eliminating the need for costly, hazardous and time-consuming scaffolding. Who controls it? Every snake has a snake charmer, and Cobra keeps operators in a fully air-conditioned cab at the base of the robotic arm. For smaller sites, the Mini-Cobra offers a hydroblasting arm controlled remotely, useful for both cleaning and vacuuming unsafe workspaces.

The Gator™

Industrial tanks have a surprisingly long history of manual cleaning practices, which are both time-consuming and dangerous. The Gator is a Veolia-developed answer to the slow and unsafe processes refineries everywhere are tasked with overcoming. 

Fast, laser-focused and comfortable in murky spaces, this appropriately named heavyweight is a one-two punch of inspection and cleaning technology. The robot emits a high-velocity stream of solvent to cut through the sludge that builds up in black oil tanks, with a camera mounted above the cannon documenting this impressive purge for the cleaning team. The Gator finally gathers this waste to a point of suction for removal and discreetly slides back out of the tank, keeping workers safe and free to focus more on the operations that make for the sustainable delivery of natural resources.

These are just three members of a portfolio of life-saving robotics available to industrial environments today. Need to decontaminate a tight workspace? Similar hydroblasting products such as the Sidewinder fit the bill. Perhaps Cyclops discovered calcified ash or debris on boiler tubing. BoilerBot is the small but mighty tank that finishes the job. 

Learn more about Veolia’s suite of Hands Free" industrial cleaning solutions, and see them all in action below.

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