Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Power Line Robots

PostedFebruary 27, 2011

Randy Atkins: Major blackouts can be caused by something as simple as an untrimmed tree. So Andrew Phillips, of the Electric Power Research Institute, is designing a robot inspector that will slide along the lightening protection “shield wire” that’s above high voltage transmission lines…

Andrew Phillips: …and at intermittent points stops and takes very detailed images as well as collects information from sensors that have been deployed on the structure.

Randy Atkins: Problems would prompt alarms sent by satellite or the cell phone network. The robots travel about three miles per hour, unless there’s an outage.

Andrew Phillips: We are designing it in a high-speed mode, ten miles-per-hour, to get to the site of where that outage occurred.

Randy Atkins: The monorail-like robot gets power by occasionally tapping the grid and has solar cells as back-up. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.


Prototype testing continues and deployment is scheduled to begin in about five years.

  • Youtube video of the robot