Transpower To Use Robots To Monitor Electricity Grid
Transpower plans to use remote-controlled robots developed by New Zealand university students to check equipment at substations.
Transpower development engineer Michael Newton worked with Massey University students to develop a robot to check equipment at Transpower substations in a bid to cut costs and improve response times.
Students Manu Lange and Sam Bartho from the School of Engineering and Advanced Technologies at Massey University Albany spent the past six months developing the robot. The small, all-terrain vehicle, with a camera attached, is controlled by an Xbox remote from anywhere in the country using wireless internet.
Transpower senior principal engineer Andrew Renton said the technology was still in its prototype phase. However, the robots would be production-ready and in the company's network within two years.
Newton said it was cheaper for students to develop the robot as a university project with Transpower funding rather than buying similar technology from overseas.
The robot was also expected to be able to monitor construction and maintenance work rather than sending an employee to the site, Newton said.
Renton said it took Transpower engineers 90 minutes to get to 12 of the company's 176 substations.
The robot, which could be controlled by a regional operator or engineer from a desktop, would cut down callout times and in the event of outages, get power switched back on hours earlier, the company said.
The operator could direct the robot to specific parts of the substation and the robot could send back video and still pictures of any damage at a substation.
Renton said the robot needed a few improvements and needed to look "sexier" before it would be ready for production.
Transpower chief executive Patrick Strange said the company was willing to invest millions of dollars a year in new technology in order to potentially save millions more in costs.
Resilience had been restored in the grid after a five-year capital investment programme and the company was now focusing on how to use existing assets rather than building new ones.
The new technology was shown off yesterday at Transpower's Drury substation, south of Auckland, as part of this week's International Committee on large Electric Systems conference.
The other technology included an unmanned aerial vehicle and a transmission line robot. The 3.5-metre-long mini-helicopter would be used to check transmission lines for damage and outages.
SOURCE: New Zealand university