Bringing transmission innovation to life
On a recent cloudy morning in Millbury, MA, a group of about 40 National Grid employees gathered to watch a really cool “first” – a demo of a transmission line inspection robot. The robot, called Line Scout, was developed by Maintenance Inspection Robotics, or MIR, a subsidiary of Hydro Quebec.
National Grid’s UK business worked closely with MIR to develop this technology, which is being used in the UK and other European countries. In the US, the New York Power Authority is the only other energy provider that has tested Line Scout on its transmission network. As we reported in summer 2016, National Grid’s Transmission Innovation Panel, headed by Terron Hill, director, Network Strategy, FERC; has been working with MIR for months to bring the robot to the US.
Line Scout has four on-board cameras that can be used to inspect a transmission line from a variety of angles. It also has a variety of diagnostic sensors that can detect corrosion and other deterioration, and can be equipped with tools to make minor repairs to the lines. The robot, which is hoisted up to the lines using a crane and bucket trucks, is controlled remotely by an operator via a laptop fitted out with specialized controls.
In Millbury, Line Scout visually inspected a line, performed a temporary repair on a broken strand of wire, and tightened a loose bolt. The next day, the MIR and National Grid teams moved to central New York for a second demonstration on a portion of a 115 kV line in the community of Farmington in upstate New York. There, Line Scout revealed signs of aging on a line and other defects that could create problems. A temporary repair clip was installed on a segment of conductor that will be replaced.
The lines used in the demos (and shown in the video below) were not energized, but typically Line Scout is used on energized conductors, which means inspections can be done without affecting grid reliability.
Rudy Wynter, FERC Jurisdiction president and COO, watched the demo and said, “If we are going to be the asset manager of the future, we need to understand and embrace new technologies such as line scout to help our employees work more safely and efficiently and deliver benefits to our customers.”
According to Terron, “We have to inspect every mile of our transmission lines annually – that’s about 9,000 miles. Line Scout may be a useful addition to the inspection process in areas that are difficult for crews and helicopters to reach.”
Check out this video to see Line Scout in action!
The TIP will continue to work with MIR to evaluate the potential benefits of Line Scout and determine whether there is a business case for deploying it on our transmission network.