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PETALUMA -- For almost 30 years R.S. Technical Services, Inc., has been an innovative, driving force in the closed-circuit television sewer pipeline-inspection industry.

With 23,000 square feet of manufacturing space in two buildings at 1327 Clegg St., R.S. Technical (rstechserv.com) continues to bring a number of first-time products to the U.S. infrastructure-maintenance market. It offers more than 20 different models for public-sector wastewater and stormwater agencies as well as private industrial customers.

The company is one of three major U.S. manufacturers providing sophisticated inspection tools for the pipeline industry. R.S. Technical's cameras are mounted on wheel-propelled steerable tractors that can inspect pipes from six inches to 13-feet in diameter over distances up to 2,500 feet. Float and skid-mounted transporters are also available.

[caption id="attachment_76717" align="alignleft" width="336"] Rod Sutliff (left), founder and CEO of RS Technical Services, and Operations Manager Juan Torres simulate putting the Transtar six-wheel drive tractor with a Novastar pan-and-tilt camera into a pipe for an internal inspection. The tractor is linked by cable to the mobile Pi2 Command Center at right with tractor remote controls, a video screen and recording capabilities. (image credit: Gary Quackenbush)[/caption]

Among the firsts the company had designed and built are the first steerable tractors for large storm drain pipelines; first-to-market mainline color camera with internal lights; first tracking lights on a true pan, zoom and tilt camera from a U.S. manufacturer; the industry's first single-conductor panomorphic (wide-angle) camera system; first cable reels offering electronic ratio selection; first single-conductor explosion proof sewer camera and tractor approved for Class 1, Division 1 hazardous applications; and first single-conductor laser and sonar profiler.

Other innovations have been designing an electronic circuit to double tractor torque without increasing supply current, developing a free-wheeling tractor that enables it to go forward and back for rapid return and a universal tap cutting controller for single-conductor systems utilizing a RS232 interface.

R.S. Technical is the world's leader in the design and manufacture of single-conductor inspection systems using a one-quarter-inch, steel-armored coaxial cable. The center conductor carries the power, control signals and high-resolution video signals.

"Our single-conductor solution is considered by many to be the cutting-edge technology of the industry," said Rod Sutliff, founder and chief executive officer. "Single-conductor cable is stronger and lasts three times longer than any of the reinforced multiconductor cables. It is simple to maintain, and connectors can be replaced in minutes instead of hours."

Single-conductor system components use direct-current line voltage. An operator inputs control signals that adjust camera functions plus tractor speed and direction. Video signal are modulated at one end then demodulated at the monitoring station where the operator views and records the visual record of the inspection.

R.S. Technical builds a variety of truck-mounted systems, complete with an equipment area, storage and tool space, a wash station, and an office/control room, where the technician monitors video signals on flat panel monitors and use a controller to maneuver the tractor through the pipe.

This mobile center is equipped with a power generator, computer and video recorder. The operator can activate sensors on the camera to sample temperature, pressure and the inclination of the line.

LED lights surround the camera lens and provide sufficient lighting for full-color views of the pipeline being inspected. Images are captured and stored using pipe-survey data-collection and analysis software.

"We manufacture all of our own equipment -- with the exception of camera modules and computers -- and also design and build the tractors (and) metal housings, and outfit truck interiors," Mr. Sutliff said.

The company recently started making a well-inspection system for customers in Mexico with front- and side-mounted cameras and lights that provide a 360-degree view of the well's vertical shaft.

Founded in 1984, R.S. Technical has 75 employees and a customer base in the Americas, China and Europe. The firm is experiencing substantial growth this year, following a down period during the economic recession, when city funding was reduced.

The company's products are priced at $4,000 to $5,000 for push cameras -- for small pipes and without a tractor. Prices for camera-tractor combinations are $20,000 to $30,000. A fully outfitted truck and control room can cost $125,000 to $200,000.

"The future looks awesome," Mr. Sutliff said. "We have a substantial order backlog. RST is buying new capital equipment to keep pace with market needs. There is pent-up demand out there, and we're getting back to normal."

Seventy-five percent of the company's work is manufacturing equipment for sewer inspection, 18 percent to 20 percent for storm drains and about 5 percent for water wells and supply lines.

Locating pipeline faults or leaks is critical.

"Regulatory requirements are increasing," Mr. Sutliff said. "Engineers must know precisely what a pipeline looks like inside and exactly where to fix problems. This enables them to set priorities for spending money. There is a lot of pipeline rehabilitation activity going on today."

Methane gas can build up in pipelines leading to possible explosions, and hydrogen sulfide can erode pipes, weakening the substrate and endangering work crews. The ability to pinpoint weaknesses enables crews to purge lines and make timely repairs.

R.S. Technical has a second 4,500-square-foot installation and service center in Mt. Sterling, Ky., for East Coast operations.