Line robotics: Taking the next step in utilizing transmission technologies
We continue the journey to advance National Grid’s Connect 21 strategy by moving forward with implementing innovative transmission technologies that will deliver benefits in the form of safety, efficiency or improved system performance. Several options are under consideration by the Transmission Innovation Panel (TIP).
We determined that six technologies warranted further investigation, including the use of robotics. Hydro Quebec (HQ), with support from National Grid UK, has been working to develop robotic tools that will inspect energized transmission lines. Recent in-depth discussions with HQ’s Maintenance, Inspection, and Robotics (MIR) Innovation research subsidiary have focused on three robotic tools.
According to Terron Hill, TIP chair and director, Network Strategy, FERC, these devices: Line Scout, Line Rover, and Line Core are equipped with visual, x-ray, and infra-red cameras and can be used to inspect, assess the condition of and make minor repairs to transmission conductors and connecting components such as insulators and cross arms. The most valuable promise for the Line Scout family of robots for National Grid’s US transmission network is its ability to provide valuable insight to the condition of our infrastructure without having to take lines out of service. It does all this while keeping our employees safe, especially over difficult sites such as river crossings and rough terrain.
Recently a cross-functional National Grid team visited HQ’s MIR robotics lab in Montreal to get some hands-on interaction with LineScout to see how it actually worked. Mike Woodley, a Transmission Line Services supervisor who went to Montreal said, “We were all very excited. It’s a great tool, very innovative with all the technology…a great piece of equipment that opens up possibilities for us to look at lines in a new and different way. Everyone at HQ was very welcoming and eager to share the technology they are developing.”
The next step will be for the TIP to select sites where asset condition issues have been identified so that Line Scout can be put to the test. Representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state regulatory commissions will be invited to attend.
To keep the innovation ball rolling, the TIP also will be discussing with MIR their Substation Inspection Robot and an underground cable arm. The TIP also is working with other possible partners, including local robotics companies and universities, to move forward innovation in this space, including advancing analytics to capture and gain new insights in how we manage and operate our assets.
Stay tuned for more to come in this exciting area of advanced technology as well as updates on the other initiatives TIP is pursuing!