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Power company uses robots to check substation equipment

Transpower is developing a prototype robot to undertake assessments and communicate present conditions at a substation back to a regional operator or engineer.

Transpower is the owner and operator of New Zealand's National Grid and the robots are being developed in collaboration with students from Massey University.

Twelve of Transpower's 176 substations are remote and it takes over 90 minutes to respond to a callout from these outlying regions. The robot can be controlled by a regional operator or engineer from a Transpower desktop.

It will be able to traverse across the rugged external surface of a substation and observe equipment. The operator can direct the robot to specific parts of the substation and the robot can send back video and still pictures of the present condition or any damage at a substation.

In addition, the robot is expected to provide other benefits including remote switching assistance, condition surveillance, construction and maintenance witnessing and visual imagery for training.

Future enhancements could include installing a way pointing system to allow the robot to be driven about the switchyard automatically following a set course.

An RFID Tags way pointing system will be used to automatically return the robot to its base station when it begins to run out of charge.

Trsnspower is also developing a 3.5-metre-long unmanned aerial vehicle, a kind of mini helicopter, to check transmission lines for damage and outages.

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