Existing and emerging inspection technologies to assess the condition of transmission line insulators often require close proximity or contact with the insulator string. The traditional approach would be to utilize a hotstick to implement the new technology or an existing technology such as a video camera. At Extra High Voltage levels this is potentially challenging due to the length of the hotstick required. Electric Power Research Institute researchers identified this as an appropriate application for robotics as a transport mechanism for these inspection technologies.

A Robotic Solution

As a result of this need, EPRI initiated the development of an “Insulator Crawler.” This robot would take the “detector technology” as a payload. In 2010, a feasibility study and a detailed design was completed, and in 2011, a technology demonstrator was constructed and tested on I-string, Vee-string and dead-end de-energized insulators with success. A camera and an EPRI prototype live working NCI Tool, which assesses the integrity of polymer insulators as they are installed, was then integrated into the insulator crawler and tested. It showed very promising results with improved repeatability over measurements made by an operator using a hot stick. Although there is a long way to go on this challenging development, the project is revealing that the use of robotics in the future has significant advantages, including more repeatable measurements, addressing ergonomic issues and increasing safety by enabling personnel to be removed from energized situations...(read more...)