Long transmission lines run across the world to provide electricity in different states, territories cities, blocks and houses. They are the most widely distributed assets amongst the utility industry. Now the major question here is to maintain the reliability and the efficiency of these transmission lines that is achieved by regular inspection, done either manually or by using helicopters (used only in foreign countries), which are considered to be costly as well as risky modes of inspection.
As per Forbes, inspection and repairing of Transmission Lines is the 7th most dangerous job in the world. The professional use of a Robot for this inspection would eliminate the risk by 100 per cent and increase the data accuracy. The job would be done faster and due to better inspection, the health of the power systems would improve.
Who better than the students from the Electrical Engineering department would better understand the importance of the reliability and the efficiency of the transmission lines? A team of four members (Gaurav Mahashabde, Khushal Tipre, Chinmay Parab and Sandesh Dongare), all Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from A. C. Patil College of Engineering worked together to bring their final year project to the forefront after winning an award for it in the Students Pavilion of Elecrama-2012. All the team members falling in the same age group (23) researched in the different area like Robotics, Power systems and Transmission Line Inspection to add to their innovation.
Dubbed ‘Transmission Line Inspection Robot’ or ‘Robot For Transmission Line Inspection’ or many other names being given to it, is similar to a person inspecting the transmission lines manually, which has so many risks to lives. The main purpose is to inspect the physical conditions of overhead transmission line, which are charged to 440kV and above. The work of the robot will be to actually travel on these transmission line cables, use its camera to take images of the various transmission line components such as conductors, insulators etc and to measure the ground clearance i.e the distance between line and ground. One important feature that this robot has is that it can cross the tower and enter into next span, which saves lot of time as compared to the manual inspection.
The Robot is mounted on the transmission line to work on the Walk-Stop-Detect principle. It travels on the transmission line and inspects the physical parameters of transmission line components closely. It then transmits the collected data to the operator sitting in a centralized location, in a safe place. The Robot is capable of crossing all the minor obstacles like spacers, dampers and also the major hindrances like towers and jumpers etc.
It is designed to operate on the live conditions, inspect physical conditions, tackle obstacles and parallely transmit the data collected from the field to the operator in remote condition.
This Robot can form an important solution for all the companies that are involved in Transmission Business. All the sensor organisations and advanced programming can help to make the Robots flexible so much so that it can be customized for particular requirements of the company.
The cost of repairs involved in the transmission line business is considerably high when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the power system which also includes salaries and transportation. This issue can be resolved by minimising the human intervention with the incorporation of Robots. It will not only increase the life of components but also minimize the repairing costs resulting in the considerably lower payback period, which will surely be advantageous to industry.
– It improves the quality of Transmission line Inspection because of the advanced technologies involved.
– Faster operation compared to manual inspection.
– Minimizes Line disconnection time thus improving reliability.
– Most importantly, it will minimize/eliminate risk involved in Transmission line Inspection.
One of the team members, Gaurav says, “We actually interacted with experts involved in Transmission Line Inspection, interviewed them about the methods employed by them for the inspection and the focus areas of inspection. We also enquired about the major technological as well as environmental challenges that they face.”
All the information helped the team members of this innovation to come up with a prototype-1. This prototype was just a demonstration level model with many shortcomings. The team identified those short comings and came up with a new scheme of a Robot that is mechanically stable, faster in operation and compact.
We all know “The map is not the territory”, the end product is quiet different from the measures taken and the challenges faced to bring a work to fruition. The major challenge with this innovation is the ground work that is required in order to define the requirements because this is altogether a new work for all the stakeholders and for the Innovators. Apart from this, the final product requires considerable R&D, testing facilities and associated funding.
Most of the things related to the product have been defined and now the real task is its implementation. “A few of the things that are still left for fabrication will require a lot of multi disciplinary expertise which we are working on. Currently, our focus is to just make use of this product for Inspection but, yes, we are working on the add-on features like the repairing feature to the Robot,” says Mahesh.
He further adds, “It is not appropriate to comment upon the time it will take for its fruition but yes, we as team are really optimistic that such a product when launched will result in a healthy Power System.”
They have already filed patent for new and improvised scheme of Robot. Its has been designed with respect to the Indian scenario.
The author is a tech journalist at EFY Gurgaon.