Spot the robotic dog sniffs out faults in National Grid’s interconnectors

Spot the robotic dog sniffs out faults in National Grid’s interconnectors
Spot the robotic dog sniffs out faults for National Grid. Courtesy National Grid

Engineers at National Grid have enlisted the help of Spot the robotic dog to lead the way with routine operation and maintenance activity at its interconnector sites.

The company recently finished a trial using Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot to help with routine asset maintenance and fault detection across its UK interconnector converter sites, including North Sea Link in Blyth.

The Spot robot is the size of a Labrador and searches out issues with interconnector equipment. The dogs use LiDAR for 3D scanning and mapping as well as visual imaging, thermal imaging and acoustic imaging to find abnormalities.

The machines access areas human engineers can’t while the asset is operational. Thus it is hoped to reduce outage times and improve asset availability and safety for engineers.

The dogs look out for hot spots and incipient faults in need of extra attention, collecting data in the same way each time.

The company’s North Sea Link interconnector was among those taking part in the trial with robots spending three days at its converter site in Blyth, Northumberland.

During the trial, the robots were tested on how they perform at several converter station environments such as DC, AC and Valve Halls as well as outdoor compounds.

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A permanent member of the team?

The results of the pilot are being reviewed to determine if this is something the company wants to invest in in the future.

National Grid interconnectors operations director Jon Davies commented: “We are always looking at innovative ways to improve site safety and the availability of our assets. This trial has given us the chance to see whether using robots like this could be part of our maintenance programme in the future.

“Interconnectors play a vital role in the UK’s energy system and last month National Grid Interconnectors had their busiest January on record with 2.6TWh of power transported across the five cables between the UK and our partner countries.”

National Grid enlisted robotics company Roboverse Reply to assist with the trials and if successful will look to roll the robots across its sites next year.

Marek Matuszewski, manager of Roboverse Reply, said: “National Grid’s use of mobile robots, such as Spot, has the potential to be highly effective. These robots are able to capture data more accurately and regularly than humans, thanks to sensors with thermal vision or acoustic cameras that allow for early detection of issues.

“The Roboverse Reply team is pleased to have had the opportunity to collaborate with National Grid in conducting the first proof of value with the use of Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot.”