Soon, robots may glide over transmission lines to check for faults, replacing humans who risk their lives to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the city. Three engineering students have developed a prototype robot for inspecting transmission lines.
Currently, power companies manually examine transmission lines through ground level and tower top inspection. In ground level inspection, officials use binoculars to check if insulations and joints running between lines are damaged. However, tower top patrolling requires workers to climb 40-foot towers to examine insulators and carry out maintenance by crawling on the switched off high-tension lines.
“The present system is cumbersome. Climbing towers and crawling on lines entail risks. Some developed countries use aerial devices, but that’s very expensive,” said Gaurav S Mahashabde, a part of the team that designed the robot. “Our robot can provide accurate data and eliminate the risk.”
The team, comprising, Mahashabde, Sandesh Dongare, Khushal Tipre – all final year students of AC Patil College of Engineering, Navi Mumbai, first presented the demo at Engineer Infinite, an all-India competition by the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers’ Association in January, winning the first prize for it. From there, they took the initiative forward.
Having worked on the prototype for five months, based on feedback from the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), the robot, with thermal and ultrasonic sensors and a camera, can slide over transmission lines and identify faults.
“The robot is most practical for transmission lines running over rivers and forests. A fault line can get rectified faster as the machine will identify the problem more quickly,” said Nilesh Kawane, in-charge, hotline maintenance department of Kalwa sub-station, MSEB.
The team is currently in talks with the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited, to commercialise the prototype. Officials from the Corporation were unavailable for comment.
Industry experts said the robot proves useful where faults cannot be spotted owing to a blind zone. “We have been looking for such a robot. It’ll increase the quality of results if not the frequency of inspections,” said the head of transmission line department of a private power company requesting anonymity.