An autonomous robot by RoboTech Vision will inspect a power substation

RoboTech Vision presentation

May 13, 2021  News

The RoboTech Vision team has established new cooperation with the Slovak company Gridman. The company is engaged in engineering, consulting and analytical activities in the field of power engineering. The main task of the cooperation will be to create an autonomous device that would regularly perform inspections of power substations without human assistance. The aim is to replace the routine operation of the staff and to reduce the cost of call-outs, while increasing both the safety of staff and the intensity of inspection.

After the introduction of our AON algorithm, Gridman showed interest in autonomous outdoor navigation. The solution is to be used in a 110/22 kV power substation without a permanent operator intended for the distribution of electricity. The inspection of similar facilities has so far required the presence of staff, which posed not only a certain risk, but also time, even though the substation is visited by staff only at the time of inspection or failure. The robot will regularly perform autonomous inspections of the substation and, in addition, will be continuously available for remote control by a teleoperator.

Successful presentation

“The first test of the robot showed us the possibilities of its movement in the premises of the outdoor substation, with the process of mapping the space and the subsequent autonomous navigation being important. The presented solution, as well as the possibilities of future hardware and software development, proved to be suitable for the given task,” said Ing. Marek Hvizdoš, PhD. from Gridman. The robot’s activity should be focused on regular preventive substation inspections during which the condition of electrical equipment must be visually inspected. “The inspection could be suitably supplemented by a guard function for the entire area of the outdoor substation,” added Hvizdoš. According to him, robots for inspection and maintenance are only beginning to be used in various areas today.

“The use of robots for power substation inspections in Europe is still a rarity. Our goal is to offer the end user, i.e. the substation operator, a comprehensive service that would include an inspection of the substation, as well as subsequent processing and evaluation of the collected data.”

Ing. Marek Hvizdoš, PhD.

Gridman Ltd.

New robotic platform

RoboTech Vision has chosen the Husky A200 platform from the Canadian robotic company Clearpath for the purpose of presenting algorithms. However, the final project should be implemented with a robot completely developed by RoboTech Vision in terms of the software and hardware. It will be a new platform called Differ which, together with the sensor system, will be tailored for the inspection of electrical equipment.

“Equipping the robot with sensors will be adapted to its inspection activities. A camera with high-quality zoom, day and night vision will be used. A thermal imaging camera, a microphone that captures discharge and a flash sensor will be used to detect faults. A smoke sensor or a gas leak sensor can also be used,” said Hvizdoš. RoboTech Vision will later add the robot to its robotic portfolio, as it can also perform other tasks.

“We haven’t placed the Differ robot on the market yet, but I can tell you that it will be a durable platform that we have been developing for a long time and has found its practical use now. The hardware features of Differ will be based on our previous experience with testing platforms and the robot will be fully customised for our software. It is a higher class of the Caster platform because Differ will have a four-wheel drive system.”

Ing. Martin Smoľák

CEO, RoboTech Vision

“We have had to adapt our software to the hardware until now. When using commercial platforms, we have often encountered limitations such as device overheating in high computing power, which is required by our algorithms, or rapid wear of the materials used. All this hampered our software development and testing. That’s why we decided to develop our own devices – when designing them, we have the opportunity to directly consider the demands of our software on the robot’s hardware. We have currently managed to establish cooperation in which we will be able to use not only our software, but also our own robotic platform, which are mutually debugged. Our partial solutions will be combined into one unit.”

Ing. Peter Pásztó, PhD.

CEO, RoboTech Vision

Autonomous movement and charging

The company is also completing its own autonomous docking system. The robot will charge while idle to always be available. Differ will be equipped with batteries that are characterized by high endurance. It is particularly important because the device will move in a large area. The sensor system, used by the robot during autonomous driving or as a live view when controlling the robot remotely, will also be adapted to the outdoors.

The device will be tested and modified for a specific purpose for several months during the implementation of the project. The project was prepared for the RIMA (Robotics for Inspection and Maintenance) grant, which is part of the cascade financing system within Horizon 2020. “These grants are intended for innovative companies, in this case a consortia of small and medium-sized companies. Our consortium consists of Gridman and RoboTech Vision, complementing each other with their activities. In the case of obtaining a grant, we will have fourteen months to develop a functional robot prototype and prepare the service for commercial use,” added Hvizdoš.

Author of the post

Dominika Krajčovičová

Marketing manager

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