SA-made drone set to disrupt power sector - TechCentral

SA-made drone set to disrupt power sector

The drone features a series of cameras to inspect power lines (image c/o Fin24)

The drone features a series of cameras to inspect power lines (image c/o Fin24)

A power line inspection drone designed by local robotics engineers could be the answer to Eskom’s power cut woes, and has already piqued the interest of overseas governments.

Durban engineers Trevor Lorimer and Timothy Rowell built the first prototype as part of a master’s degree project to develop the power line robot, which is almost ready to be produced for industrial use.

The duo worked with Eskom and the Technology Innovation Agency, which has been assisting with development of the drone.

The drone is hoisted up a pylon by crane, after which a linesman attaches it to a power line. The drone acts as a vehicle to transport inspection cameras and other sensors, rolling along the power line and able to climb past towers.

It can also  provide remarkable inspection detail of the line and support structures.

“Eskom handles many faults on their power lines every year,” Lorimer said. “These faults can lead to power dips that affect industry and residential customers.

The power utility currently inspects its lines by helicopter or foot patrol — expensive and sometimes hazardous methods, Lorimer explained.

“In the longer term, robots will be able to remain on the line indefinitely, providing data on a more regular basis compared to current methods,” Lorimer said.

He added that for these reasons, this technology is expected to result in earlier detection of damage and therefore a reduction in faults that trip the line.

“This is a disruptive innovation, and other teams from around the world have been working on such inspection vehicles,” Lorimer said.

“There are significant differences between our design and others, however, that will provide an edge over others.”

The UK and New Zealand governments have already shown deep interest in the project.

“I’m heading to the US in November to speak with utilities in California, too — they have about the same amount of power lines in that state as there are in the whole of South Africa,” he added.

The team will carry out the final testing phase of the drone over the next six months.

Fin24

4 Comments

  1. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >There are significant differences between our design and others, however, that will provide an edge over others

    I’d be interested to know what’s so disruptive about this robot? A quick Google reveals this is a mature market, with dozens of companies doing this for a decade+. Kudos for doing something awesome, but there’s no mention of any of these awesome things in the article 🙂

  2. Well said- I know they’ve been having this kind of tech for shy on a decade now.
    The truth be told, the power outages are 85% cable theft, and the balance is due to covert load-shedding

  3. William Stucke on

    The article should be using the word “robot” rather than “drone”, to avoid confusion. The word drone usually but not exclusively refers to an unmanned aerial vehicle.
    And yes, it’s great that we continue to develop leading edge technology in RSA

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