Robots to Replace People for Patrolling Power Lines

power lines robot photo

Photo credit Electric Power Research Institute

Robots are becoming a more important tool for keeping our infrastructure working properly. From scurrying through underground water pipes to search for leaks, to now swinging from power lines to inspect their condition. Electric Power Research Institute, a non-profit utility consortium, has come up with a robot that can patrol power lines in remote places like forests and deserts, places where sending people out can be tedious and expensive.The New York Times reports that the institute has already devised a prototype that can crawl a few miles each day over transmission line shield wires -- the metal wire used to attract lightening bolts away from power lines -- and look for problems through its sensors that can detect electrical disturbances, a lidar that shows if there is enough distance between the power lines and the ground or trees, an infrared sensor for finding hotspots, and a camera for checking tower structural integrity and other wear and tear.

Powering the prototype is fairly easy. It just taps into the energy from the high-voltage lines it's traveling near, without even having to touch them. The robot, dubbed Ti for Transmission Inspection, will help take utility company trucks off the roads and helicopters out of the air, and ensure that power failures don't happen. Soon utilities will be able to send robots out to areas where there's a suspected problem and likely find out where and what the issue is before a human could.

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