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Inexpensive Robotic Power Line Inspection Device Developed

Nick Morozovsky and SkySweeper

Nick Morozovsky and SkySweeper (University of California, San Diego)

An engineer at University of California in San Diego created a prototype device that propels itself along utility lines and can locate problems that need repair. The device, called SkySweeper and built by graduate student Nick Morozovsky, will be presented at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 3 to 8 November, in Tokyo.

Morozovsky says power, telephone, and cable television utilities currently use complex and expensive systems to inspect their lines, including helicopters with infrared imaging. The SkySweeper, he says, was built from off-the-shelf electronics and plastic parts fabricated on an inexpensive 3D printer, and can be scaled up for less than $1,000.

SkySweeper has two arms projected from a motorized elbow-joint, with clamps at the end of each arm that open and close to move the device along the wire, cable, or line being inspected. Morozovsky says the clamps on the early prototype are being strengthened to make it possible to release one of the ends from the line and swing past cable-support points.

The device, says the inventor, can also be outfitted with with induction coils that would extract energy from the power line and stay in operation for long periods of time. In addition, SkySweeper can support a video camera to transmit images to remote inspectors.

SkySweeper is taking part in the Road to Maker Faire Challenge, where contestants compete for prize money for funding to present their inventions at the World Maker Faire, 21-22 September in New York.

In the following video, Morozovsky demonstrates SkySweeper.

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