Petra, a robotics company investigating undergrounding critical utilities through hard geologies, has announced the completion of a 6.1m tunnel through hard rock and announced its Series A funding led by DCVC, the leading Deep Tech venture firm.
Founded by CEO Kim Abrams and CPO Shivani Torres, Petra says it has invented a new hard rock boring method, transforming the way utilities are buried underground. “As the former President of SoCal Edison, I oversaw capital projects in urban, suburban and rural mountainous areas. A robot that can bury utility facilities in bedrock would have been a game-changer for us,” said Bob Foster, a Petra Advisor.
“In cities, it would allow us to bury utilities in bedrock below the existing infrastructure–in mountainous areas like the Sierra foothills, it would allow us to bury utilities in the most fire-prone regions of our state.”
Petra says it is transforming the economics of how utilities are buried by tackling the hardest problem in underground construction: how to reliably and cost effectively bore utility tunnels through difficult geologies. Petra says its technology can tunnel faster and cheaper than conventional undergrounding methods, and through high-grade hard rock previously thought impenetrable.
“We’ve invented a completely new way to excavate rock and this will have profound implications on the future of tunnelling,” said Petra CEO and co-founder Kim Abrams. “By delivering a boring solution that affordably undergrounds utilities through high-grade rock, we can finally protect communities from exposure to wildfires and ensure the safety of critical infrastructure in disaster-prone areas, especially in places like the Sierra Nevada mountains, Rocky Mountains, and coastal regions. Petra represents a new day in tunneling that changes the landscape of what we thought possible.”
“Petra’s semi-autonomous undergrounding robot, called ‘Swifty,’ successfully completed a 6.1m bore through hard Sioux Quartzite, where we averaged an astounding one inch per minute in a geology usually excavated by dynamite,” said Ian Wright, Petra’s CTO and a Tesla co-founder. “No tunnelling method has been able to tunnel through this kind of hard rock until now.
“Petra’s achievement is due to Swity’s thermal drilling method which efficiently bores through rock without touching it. Boring through impossibly hard Sioux Quartzite proves our unique capability to affordably bury utility sized tunnels through high grade hard rock.”
Petra’s Swifty robot is semi-autonomous and utilizes a non-contact thermal drilling method that can bore microtunnels below 60 inches in diameter through hard rock, meaning it’s now possible to bore utility tunnels through previously impenetrable geologies.
The company was founded by CEO Kim Abrams and CPO Shivani Torres, and has raised a total of $33M in funding from DCVC, ACME Capital Congruent Ventures, 8VC, Real Ventures, Elementum Ventures, and Mac Venture Capital.