Pittsburgh Robotics Firm Lands Major Middle East Oil Contract

Gecko Robotics deal highlights Pittsburgh’s global leadership in robotics technology

By Rick Wills

Published May 13, 2024

Read Time: 3 mins


A Pittsburgh robotics company has won a $30 million contract with the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned oil company—a deal reflecting the growing reach of the city’s many tech companies.

Gecko Robotics Inc. will use robots to perform maintenance, improve efficiency, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and maintain safety for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

The UAE aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.

“ADNOC and the UAE are at the forefront of using Industry 4.0 tools to boost efficiency and decrease their carbon footprint,” Gecko CEO Jake Loosararian said in a statement.

Gecko’s machines climb pipelines, bridges, boilers, tanks, ship hulls and more in search of damage. In the U.S., the company robots are mainly used to inspect aging infrastructure.

Gecko is one of a number of startup tech companies founded by researchers and students at Carnegie Mellon University, a global leader in development of robots.

The announcement of the Gecko-ADNOC partnership came before the start of the second annual Aviation and Robotics Summit. Hosted by Pittsburgh International Airport and Future Travel Experience, the summit brings aviation leaders from around the world to Pittsburgh, a city that is a global leader in robotics.

Gecko is a partner of xBridge, PIT’s innovation hub, and some of its newest tools are aiding in the construction of the airport’s new terminal. 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.

The Abu Dhabi contract is a boon for Pittsburgh’s technology sector, said Jonathan Kersting, vice president for communications at the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

“The Tech Council is thrilled to see Gecko Robotics winning such a sizeable contract,” Kersting said. “It shows that Pittsburgh-based companies are developing solutions that are being deployed around the world to address some of our toughest problems. It also creates visibility to those outside of Pittsburgh that we are home to innovations that can’t be found anyplace else.”

Gecko Robotics is a partner of PIT’s xBridge innovation hub. Some of Gecko’s newest tools are aiding in the construction of the airport’s new terminal. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Company’s value growing

In December, Gecko announced a fundraising round of $137 million—well above the average Pittsburgh tech deal size of $27.1 million.

The Abu Dhabi contract puts the company’s value at more than $600 million, as reported by the Pittsburgh Business Times.

The company has attracted noteworthy investors. In 2019, Gecko received $40 million from investors like Drive Capital, Founders Fund and Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Abu Dhabi is not the company’s first international expansion. Gecko has operated an international headquarters there for two years. The company also has offices in Boston; Houston; Austin, Texas; and New York City.

Robots boost safety and efficiency

Oilfield testing technology is essential for helping the oil and gas industry operate safely and productively and helps prevent humans from engaging in dangerous tasks.

Gecko technology checks pipeline serviceability without disrupting or harming the original infrastructure.

Gecko uses technology developed by Carnegie Mellon researchers: a machine for visual testing called the Pipeline Explorer, the first untethered and remotely controlled robot for inspecting live gas pipelines.

The company’s software uses that data to help customers like the U.S. military, energy suppliers, manufacturing companies and now the airport, ensuring the reliability of their critical assets.

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