Working with Eskom and other power utilities, the University of KwaZulu-Natal has been developing robotic technologies for power line inspection. Our robots are very specialised vehicles that can transport high-resolution cameras along live overhead power lines. They are designed to roll on conductors, negotiate line hardware, and climb past towers: abilities that enable them to reach multiple spans on the same phase. Because they mount to the conductors, our robots are also stable and extremely energy-efficient.
Our robots can improve the inspection process by being cheaper, safer, and less intrusive than before, all while providing remarkable levels of inspection detail. They can provide very close views of the hardware of interest that are otherwise impossible from off the line.
Here to serve
We've registered a company, PLI Robotics, to serve the power industry. Our team is on the way to realising a long-held vision: leveraging robotic technology to provide energy-efficient inspection services.
Part of our service to the industry is to work together to integrate new sensors into our robots, so that we can provide bespoke inspection solutions to fit your needs. Some possibilities include ultraviolet and infrared imaging to check insulators and compression joints, magnetic mapping for steel core assessment, and Lidar or visual for mapping the right-of-way.
Overhead power lines are valuable assets that are often exposed to harsh conditions. Problems with the lines and support structures, like damage to insulators, broken conductor strands, and corroded or polluted hardware, start to show over time. Managing the repair of this damage on a grid that spans vast distances is costly and challenging.
Inspecting power lines is a crucial step in making good, reactive maintenance decisions. These Inspections are carried out regularly to try and find damage early, before it threatens reliability of the supply.
Most power line inspections are performed by aerial or foot patrols, and these methods can have difficulties in collecting relevant data in a manner that is consistent, inexpensive, and low-risk. As examples, inspectors on the ground might struggle to access right-of-way due to terrain or private land, and are unable to see parts of the towers. Inspectors being transported by helicopter trade expensive flying time for inspection detail. Assessments on core corrosion and splice resistance are done by linesmen on the line, which is inherently dangerous.