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The power line inspection robot platform has thus far carried four standard resolution visible-light cameras that collect all-round views of the power line and associated hardware. The images below are the very first set of field data collected by P.L.I.Robotics, in rainy conditions and in low light. These images demonstrate the close-up views achievable from the platform.


We are currently upgrading the visible-light cameras to high-definition sensors with improved dynamic range. These new cameras handle the high contrast lighting conditions typically found in outdoor environments, and deliver crisp, highly detailed images for the inspector to assess. In addition to the four cameras that are pointed at the line, forward- and rearward-facing optical zoom cameras are to be fitted to collect images of towers. These cameras will allow the inspector to discover damage on support structures, as well as to look for any human or vegetation encroachment on the right-of-way.


Aside from the ongoing work toward improving the quality of inspection data, we are working hard to improve the robustness of the overall system. This encompasses protecting the ground station hardware from dust and water ingress, operating the communications system during high-voltage arcing onto the robot, finalising deployment procedures, formally training robot operators, and more. We expect to complete on-board camera, arc-operable communications, and all-weather ground station upgrades by the third quarter of 2015, by which time we will be ready to carry out further field trials. Our deployment and training programmes are due to be fully developed by the fourth quarter of 2015.


We are currently in the design phase of a third-generation power line inspection robot, which is to be easier to manufacture, have a greater degree of ingress protection, and be lower in mass. This latest design will enable our robots to be manufactured in reasonable quantities so that inspections may be carried out in different locations at the same time.




We see great value for utilities and line operators in using the inspection robot on energised lines, and advancing the technology in this area is our current focus. We are building up to this objective by developing our robot in high voltage laboratories. We have been working up to 100 kilovolts, characterising the electromagnetic emissions typical of power lines to ensure that these emissions do not interfere with the robot’s communication system. We have also charged the robot to 100 kilovolts to test the measures that protect the on board electronics.


The next stage of our high voltage experiments involves increasing the test voltage to 400 kilovolts, to validate predictions that our systems will work in this noisier environment. Thereafter, we need to undertake extensive field testing on energised transmission lines. We will evaluate the functionality of the robot system in its operational environment, assess the reliability of the platform, and tweak our procedures for deployment and operation.


Our primary aim is to provide as much inspection value as possible to utilities and operators. To this end, during the future field tests, we will also be gathering inspection data on the line, associated hardware, and support structures, in the form of images and video. We will work together with industry to understand the finer points of the inspection process, whilst adjusting our inspection procedures accordingly to capture as much valuable detail as possible.


The path to delivering valuable inspection data clearly has field testing on energised lines as a stepping stone, and we are looking for partners to help in this testing so that the potential of our technology may be realised. Beyond field testing, we believe that there is great benefit in collaborating with the power industry: we are looking to develop the project together in order to advance both technology and relationships in the most effective way.


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