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Waterloo robot aims to detect power outages before they happen


Could robots one day detect power outages before they happen?

Enerza, a Grid Analytics company working out of the University of Waterloo’s startup incubator, hopes its autonomous machine will be able to do that -- and with more precision than a human can.

“We’re trying to do something new that hasn’t been done before,” said Chief Technology Officer Anson Maitland. “By having a device like this you are removing workers from dangerous work environments.”

Enerza wants to revolutionize the way electrical utility providers conduct risk assessments on wires high up in the sky.

“The most common inspection method now is primarily done manually,” explained Maitland. “People go out in rural areas, they have to go out in ATV trucks, and they’re basically inspecting the line visually.”

By automating the process, the company hopes to compensate for human error and safety concerns.

“[The robot] would be able to use the propellers to fly itself up to the line and would be able to attach the line,” said Maitland. “[It would use] things like thermal cameras, depth cameras, and then a combination of other stereoscopic cameras in order to measure distances.”

The robot, which is still under development, can sense if branches or leaves are growing too close to the wires or if there is failing infrastructure.

Once that information is collected, it’s fed back to a database to determine if there’s an issue now or if one could develop in the coming weeks.

Enerza hopes the robot could predict power outages before they happen by adding more precision to the process.

One issue they’re still working on is the ability to navigate over insulators or obstacles on the line.

“Which is something that hasn’t been done before and something that we’re keen to develop,” said Maitland. Top Stories

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