Facebook builds a fiber-optic-spewing, power line-crawling robot
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Facebook builds a fiber-optic-spewing, power line-crawling robot

Tech Industry
[MUSIC] We're developing a robot that crawls on 10,000 to 35,000. An alliance to install miniature, super strong fiber optic cable we've developed. Conventional cable installation on poles is very expensive relative to cable. What we chose to do is to use And existing infrastructure, the electrical conductors to act as the carriers for the fibre optic cable and the robot basically whines these cables around those conductors, we had a few basic parameters to start with, and we developed a set of characteristics that are very different From the standard fiber optic cables, so the idea to utilize the electrical grid, first came to me traveling around rural Africa. However rural we got, there were still medium voltage power lines everywhere we went. And this got me thinking there's got to be a way to utilize that infrastructure. There are really two central innovations. The first is that. There's an innovative fiber optic cable design that's resistant to damage. The other central innovation is the robotic system which will allow the fiber optic cable to be transported along medium voltage distribution lines. Marrying those two technologies really enables you to run fiber in a way that couldn't be done previously. A lot of the Outdoor fiber cable used in construction come on these gigantic six foot spools that weigh a thousand of pounds. To make this work, we needed to reduce the fiber cable diameter down to something less than four millimeters. We found a way to be able to carryover a kilometer of cable within the available clearance around the conductor. Haven't weigh less than 30 pounds we were able to take the spool of cable and deform it into a horseshoe shape that allows the center of balance of the robot not to be shifted around the outside. So this allows us to work with conductors that are closely spaced together. And so with that, we would be able to let the robot pass over those more successfully, the robot is able to spin that payload with this custom shape and maintain that center of mass. We decided that the robot that installed the fiber would have to have two separate operations. One for the Standard normal wrapping operation and another operation where it would lift the fiber cable up and away from the conductor to be able to pass an obstacle, making sure that we designed a robot that could automatically Navigate over this class of obstacles without any human assistance. Was the critical function for the robot. We identified early on that we were going to house the payload of fiber in the middle of our robot. This allowed us to be able to lift the robot up from either side without having it cantilevered off of one end. And transported over an insulator or other obstacle. This is a very hard problem. And I think because it's never been done before, there isn't something simple that we could rely on for guidance. When Karthik was putting together the team, the goals were to find people and groups that were willing to look at these things with a fresh set of eyes and I give the Facebook team a lot of credit. For building a very diverse group that was willing to get outside of our comfort zones and build things that were different. I think most people, you'll see robotics would say that this is the coolest and most difficult robot we've ever Developed Facebook connectivities mission is to bring more people online to a faster internet. Our hope with this project is that we enable all different kinds of access technologies to be used. All of these things can be improved by by having a more pervasive fiber optic network.

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