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LineScout power grid robot rolls on down the line

Canadian power grids are being inspected by rolling LineScout robots, which inspect energized lines to reduce downtime and maintenance costs.

Hanging around: LineScout negotiates an obstacle.
Hanging around: LineScout negotiates an obstacle.
Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

We've seen prototype cable-crawling robots that look like UFOs from the Electric Power Research Institute, but north of the border rolling robots are already checking live high-voltage power lines in the vast Hydro-Quebec network.

Developed at the Hydro-Quebec Research Institute following the 1998 ice storm, the LineScout is a remote-controlled rolling robot that uses its movable, 360-degree cameras to inspect power lines.

A thermo-infrared imager on the device helps identify power problems, and sensors check the electrical resistance of splices. It's also equipped with manipulators that can unscrew bolted assemblies and perform minor repairs on the line.

Operated with two remote joysticks, LineScout can maneuver around line obstacles such as splices and warning markers for aircraft, while pinpointing trouble spots with GPS for technicians to check. It can roll along lines while they're energized, reducing downtime for the utility.

The bot has been in use on Hydro-Quebec and BC Hydro lines since 2006 and is being used to check lines in places like Indian Arm, British Columbia. In June, it earned Hydro-Quebec and partner British Columbia Transmission an Edison Award from the Edison Electric Institute, which represents about 70 percent of the U.S. power industry.

Check out a promo video of LineScout here.

(Via IEEE Spectrum)