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Robots in the fast lane for power line inspections

Engineer working on power lines

Line inspections will in future be carried out by robots


Robots are poised to take over inspection of electricity cables in a move that will reduce the need to cut power while repairs are being carried out.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has partnered with engineers at Williams Advanced Engineering, the engineering sister company of the Williams Formula One team, to introduce the first robot to be used on high voltage electricity networks in the UK. It will be capable of making its own decisions without human control.

It will navigate its own route as it moves from overhead line to another, seamlessly navigating from steel tower to steel tower, as it captures critical data to alert maintenance staff to any problems.

Using robotics to carry out maintenance inspections will enable SSEN’s teams to carry out checks safely whilst the power remains live. This will help deliver greater efficiencies and improve network reliability without the need for network outages.

Stewart Reid, head of distribution system operator and Innovation at SSEN, said: “The use of robotics to help us inspect and maintain our network has the potential to provide enormous benefits to our customers and our people, from improvements in safety and network reliability, to reduced costs for our customers.

“Through Ofgem’s innovation funding we have the opportunity to trial this innovative technology on our network, sharing the lessons with our peers across the sector.”

The company has partnered with Williams Advanced Engineering to develop the robot and manufacturers will be invited to tender for the design and build work.

SSEN will trial the technology at various sites across its networks and will share the findings of the project with the wider energy industry, with this collaboration key to help inform new and innovative ways to manage the electricity networks of the future.

Iain Wight, business development director at Williams Advanced Engineering, said: “This is an exciting project. The capabilities that we have are applicable across industry and our team is delighted to be able to apply them to the energy sector with SSEN. 

“As demand increases for more and more reliable power, not least to power electric vehicles where we are helping lead the way to a more sustainable future, it is essential that we take every step to secure supply and costs. 

“Our work with SSEN is another significant step towards delivering that for people and for future sustainable mobility.”

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