Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has partnered with Williams Advanced Engineering to design autonomous high-voltage power line inspection robots.


Image: Officials from SSEN and Williams. Photo: courtesy of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks.

The partners will work on the Line Inspection by Semi-Autonomous Systems (LISAS) project, which aims to design a functional specification for the live overhead line inspection robot for use on SSEN’s high voltage electricity networks.

SSEN DSO and innovation head Stewart Reid 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.”

Funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance, the LISAS project will trial a robot system which will be capable of making its own decisions without human control.

Under the project, a highly autonomous robot will be deployed for the first time to inspect the UK’s electricity networks, SSEN said.

The semi-autonomous robot will also be able to navigate its own route as it moves from overhead line to overhead line and capture critical asset data to inform reinforcement and maintenance requirements.

In addition to minimizing potential disruption, the new technology will provide up-to-date asset and safety data as well as photographs and video footage to ensure SSEN provides safe and reliable supply of electricity to 3.8 million customers.

Williams Advanced Engineering business development director Iain Wight said: “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.”

The partners will develop the initial functional specification for the robotic device and then release the specification through a market tender to design and build the first autonomous power line inspection robot.

After trials at various sites across its networks, SSEN will share the findings of the project with the energy industry to help inform new and innovative ways to manage the electricity networks of the future, SSEN said.