Amongst many other things, aerial drones are now being used to inspect high-voltage power transmission lines. Canada's Hydro-Quebec public utility company, however, has developed what could be a better alternative … the LineRanger robot.
We recently saw a functioning LineRanger prototype for ourselves, at the world's largest-ever robotics show – the 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation, in Montreal.
The 50-kg (110-lb) device is designed to be cable-hoisted up onto extra-high-voltage 735-kilovolt transmission lines, which it grabs onto with its battery-powered rubber rollers. Remotely-controlled by a ground-based human operator, it then moves along those lines, easily going over obstacles such as couplers or insulators.
As it does so, real-time video is transmitted from its onboard HD camera to the user, allowing them to visually inspect the lines. The robot can also be equipped with sensors that detect corrosion or heat points, or that measure the conductivity of power line splices.
Unlike a multicopter drone, the LineRanger doesn't need to expend any energy keeping itself airborne – as a result, it can be used to inspect several kilometers of power lines on one charge of its battery pack. The claimed advantages don't stop there, though.
"One of the major points of this design is that it's easy to use," Hydro-Quebec/IREQ researcher Alain Croteau told us at the show. "Basically you only have one degree of freedom, you push on or pull back … We want this to be usable by people with no particular knowledge of robotics."
The LineRanger has already been successfully utilized by its designers to carry out inspections, and should hopefully soon enter general use by Hydro-Quebec. It can be seen in action, in the video below.
Project page: Hydro-Quebec LineRanger
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