New Terminal Built for Pittsburgh, By Pittsburgh … Robots?

Airport partner Gecko Robotics assists with signature element of TMP

By Oscar Rzodkiewicz

Published October 31, 2023

Read Time: 2 mins


Gecko Robotics, a technology engineering company partnered with the Pittsburgh International Airport’s innovation hub, the xBridge, is applying some of its newest tools to aid the construction of PIT’s new terminal.

Pittsburgh-based Gecko uses cutting-edge technology to collect data on large physical structures—think power plants, ships, bridges, etc.—at a scale and speed that was impossible until recently. The company’s software uses that data to help customers like the U.S. military, energy suppliers, manufacturing companies and now PIT ensure the reliability of their critical assets.

As part of the partnership with xBridge, Gecko technology allowed for a thorough inspection of the building’s fire safety—specifically, sensor technology to test the building’s signature metal “tree” columns that support much of the structural steel.

“I knew right away hearing ‘steel’ and ‘interfacing of concrete’ that we had a solution,” said Robert Petro, senior regional manager for Gecko.

Simply put, the technology can detect what the eye cannot see.

The 32 columns are pieces of vertical steel with outstretching branches—most columns have four—into which contractors must pump concrete.

The concrete needs to reach the ends of each branch evenly, but since the columns are not transparent, there is no way for contractors to determine if that has happened with just the naked eye. Gecko, however, was able to use a sonar-like strategy to detect any air pockets in the concrete from the outside.

The one-of-a-kind sensor technology was developed by Olson Engineering, according to Petro. Gecko has integrated the sensor technology and data output into its automated robotics systems and analytical decision-making software.

“We’re really almost using something like you would see in a movie, like on a submarine,” Petro said. “It’s an echo sound wave, and it’s actually listening, so it’s sending that wave in and it’s going through the interface to the exterior.”

Gecko’s integrated sensor technology can help measure and collect data on the concrete used to support the vertical steel tree columns of the new terminal. (Photo by Oscar Rzodkiewicz)

Using technology to solve problems

Gecko is one of multiple technology and innovation partners of the xBridge, a program at PIT designed to advance the campus and the region with modern solutions across many different fields.

Other partnerships with xBridge include autonomous food delivery robot services with Ottonomyair purification with AlgenAirsemi-autonomous car services around airport property with Mapless AI and more.

Gecko, which opened its doors about 10 years ago, joins the long list of Western Pennsylvania-based companies working on PIT’s new terminal.

Nearly 90 percent of contracts for the Terminal Modernization Program were awarded to local firms as the project has created over 14,000 direct and indirect jobs for the region.

“It’s really neat to be part of something and really be able to go through the airport one day and look at these one day and say, ‘We were able to help with this,’” Petro said.

PIT’s new terminal and multi-modal complex parking structure are set to open in 2025.

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