Overhead Transmission Line Robot

Overhead Transmission Line Robot

Project Summary

An overhead transmission line inspection robot that is permanently installed on the shield wire is being developed. The robot will traverse 80 miles of line at least twice a year, collecting high-fidelity information that utilities can act on in real time. As the robot crawls along the transmission line, it uses various inspection technologies to identify high-risk vegetation and right-of-way encroachment, and to assesses component conditions.

The robot uses high-definition visual and infra-red spectrum cameras with advanced image processing to inspect the right-of-way and component conditions. It will be able to determine clearances between conductors, trees, and other objects in the right-of-way. The cameras also will be able to compare current and past images of specific components to identify high-risk conditions or degradation. As an alternative to the camera, the robot may be equipped with a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensor to measure conductor position, vegetation, and nearby structures.

The robot will transmit key information to utility personnel using a global positioning system to accurately identify its location and speed. Another system will collect data from remote sensors deployed along the line, and an electromagnetic interference detector will identify the location of discharge activity (i.e., corona or arcing). Where discharges are identified, field personnel may do further inspections using daytime discharge cameras. The robot is also designed to collect data from the range of EPRI-developed RF transmission line sensors.

The transmission line robot traverses structures and obstacles using bypass systems that are permanently installed on the transmission line. The robot automatically disconnects itself from the shield wire and connects itself to the bypass system. Once it is has bypassed the obstacle or structure it then returns to the shield wire. These bypass systems could be installed during construction or be made integral to the line hardware. It is envisioned that the robot's mobility could be developed to remove the need for bypass systems, enabling its deployment on existing transmission lines.

Project Status

Project Phases: Development and Lab Testing

Concepts have been developed and a functional specification written. A detailed design for a technology demonstrator has been completed and the mechanical components built and tested in full-scale testing in 2010. In 2011, the mechanical technology demonstrator is being refined and retested. The electrical control, communications, and sensing elements for the technology demonstrator are being constructed and are expected to be tested in late 2011. The design of the field-ready prototype unit will be implemented in 2012.

Task Descriptions

Task Due Date Completed % Complete
Concept development design 12/2009 100%
Detailed design of robot and bypass systems 12/2010 100%
Technology demonstration of mechanical components 8/2011 70%
Technology demonstration of control, communication and sensing systems 6/2012 30%
Full-scale laboratory testing 12/2012 0%
Field implementation 12/2013 5%