BURROW: Oceanit’s X-Ray Vision for Utility Line Directional Drilling

Press Release, RiSE, Technology

Oceanit is spearheading efforts to build a resilient and climate-proof power grid in the U.S. by revolutionizing the undergrounding of power lines, the lifeline of modern society, through BURROW (Borehole Underground Reconnaissance and Real-time Obstacle Wayfinder).

America’s complex and aging power grids are increasingly susceptible to severe weather events and utility-triggered wildfires due to the prevalence of exposed above-ground power lines. BURROW, an innovative and groundbreaking solution, offers faster, safer, and lower-cost undergrounding of lines, using drones and AI-driven horizontal drilling to plot efficient tunneling paths that circumvent obstacles.

“BURROW will play a pivotal role in setting a new standard for resilient electrical grids across the U.S., significantly enhancing energy security and safety. The deployment of underground power lines will not only dramatically reduce power outages but also safeguard against life-threatening incidents, such as the recent Lahaina fires on Maui,” stated Dr. Patrick Sullivan, Oceanit’s Founder and CEO.

Electricity is an indispensable need in modern life. However, the ubiquitous overhead power line has always been vulnerable to extreme weather events, like wildfires, high winds, storms, and lightning strikes. Over the past decade, climate change has escalated the frequency of weather-related power outages by 78%, exacerbating the threat of power line-triggered wildfires. Recent events, such as the catastrophic power failures in more than 4.5 million homes during Texas’ 2021 winter storm and Maui’s 2023 wildfire outbreak, caused by downed power lines creating fire so strong it engulfed an entire town, underscored the urgent need for modern grid resilience measures.

Despite the availability of undergrounding methods like drilling, tunneling, and trenching, the high costs involved and safety concerns regarding the disruption of other underground utilities (like water lines) have hindered widespread adoption. BURROW will reduce the price tag of undergrounding to the same level as new overhead lines while also accelerating installation and eliminating the risk of hitting in-place obstacles, boosting infrastructure resilience and community safety.

BURROW utilizes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) networked with AI-infused directional drills, enabling the system to detect and avoid existing utilities, such as cables or pipes, in the tunneling path. Widespread undergrounding of power lines will reduce the annual U.S. economic losses from frequent and prolonged power outages, estimated to be $79 billion annually. Supported by a three-year partnership with the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and in collaboration with the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, BURROW aligns with President Biden’s initiatives to fortify America’s electric grid.

This innovative technology also holds the potential to address digital inequality, a pressing issue in our modern society, by extending reliable broadband networks to underserved rural areas. By reducing tunneling costs, BURROW can pave the way for the widespread deployment of underground fiber optics, advancing the current administration’s goal of universal broadband access for all Americans.

Oceanit’s BURROW technology represents a step change in fortifying America’s electrical grid against the mounting threats of climate change and infrastructure vulnerabilities. By revolutionizing the undergrounding process of power lines, BURROW offers a cost-effective and efficient solution to enhance energy security, reduce power outages, and safeguard communities from life-threatening incidents like wildfires.