Utility companies are turning to robotics to support the inspection and maintenance of hard-to-reach assets, according to new research from GlobalData.
Focusing on the power utilities space, the data and analytics company found that robots and drones are finding applications across various segments such as transmission and distribution (T&D), wind, solar, nuclear, hydropower and fossil fuels.
There are currently three main use cases for robotics in utilities: inspection of assets, automated and remote maintenance, and the handling of nuclear materials.
“In addition to these established use cases, utilities are also likely to be indirectly influenced by a number of developments in the robotics arena in the longer term,” said Sneha Susan Elias, senior power analyst at GlobalData. “For example, as robots and drones become more prevalent, they will provide a significant source of data for utilities including mapping dangerous or inaccessible parts of utilities’ infrastructure that can then support training, planning and maintenance.”
Robots can also play a key role in the installation and setup of technologies such as offshore wind and solar panels, GlobalData explained. For example, sailing robots can move wind turbines to the correct offshore locations and erect them.
R4 Robotics, ULC Robotics and Hydro-QuÃ©bec subsidiary MIR Innovation are among the companies that have developed drones aimed at utilities and related industries.
“MIR has been at the forefront of designing robots for inspection of high-voltage power lines, and has developed a product called LineScout that serves as a robotic platform specifically designed for inspecting and carrying out maintenance activities for energised transmission lines,” Elias said.
Meanwhile, the Â£4m Innovate UK funded Multi-Platform Inspection, Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments (MIMRee) project aims to demonstrate that operations and maintenance on offshore wind farms can be carried out by crawling robots, autonomous vessels and aerial vehicles.
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