Three different efforts and products emerge to solve the problem of safely observing and maintaining high voltage transmission lines using robotics. Present methods range from humans crawling the lines, to helicopters flying close-by and scanning, to cars and jeeps with people and binoculars.
1. LineScout, a tele-operated obstacle crossing system developed by the Hydro-Quebec Research Institute (IREQ), is being tested on hard to maintain lines such as those that cross the St. Lawrence River.
2. Expliner, by HiBot of Japan, is being used by the Kansai Electric Power Company. HiBot says they can, with minor modifications, roll out Expliner bots to other countries.
3. America’s Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is developing a more autonomous version customized to work on the PATH (Ohio’s Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline lines) but won’t be ready to do trial runs until 2014.
If this subject is of interest to you, you may want to attend CARPI 2010, Conference on Applied Robotics for the Power Industry, October 5-7, Montreal, Canada.
SIDEBAR: National Geographic did an in-depth piece on the US and EU power grid which is a worthwhile read and the graphics are wonderful.