Low-cost SkySweeper inspection robot scoots along power lines

The SkySweeper can do a back flip to avoid obstacles on a cable.

(Credit: U.C. San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

You only need to experience another blackout for a reminder of the importance of power grid maintenance. Robots that crawl along and inspect power lines could save utilities a bundle in preventive checks.

We’ve seen a few designs for machines that can take on this dangerous and tricky job, such as Hydro-Quebec’s LineScout, but they can still cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Engineers at the University of California at San Diego have developed a cheap and fast wire-crawling inspection robot called the SkySweeper. Made of off-the-shelf electronics and 3D-printed parts , the basic bot can be produced for less than $1,000.

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The V-shaped bot hangs from a wire and works around a spring-elastic elbow joint. It moves along like an upside-down inchworm as its cable-hugging clamps open and close.

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