A new 3D printed robot has been invented to inspect high wires and power lines on behalf of electricity companies, to ensure that they are working correctly.
Being without power is no laughing matter. In the dark of the night when your lights are out, your Internet connection is down and you can’t even switch on your home’s heating system, a power outage can be an unfortunate side effect of a storm, or even just because of a poorly maintained power line from your electricity provider. That’s why electricity companies routinely check their lines, using helicopters or big, expensive robots that scoot across power lines, way up high, checking that each one is working correctly, delivering power to paying customers. But that expense is one that most electricity providers would rather avoid and so now, a 3D printed robot electrician could be set to change how power reaches our homes for good.
SkySweeper is the name of a 3D printed robot that could replace both the aforementioned expensive robots or even the use of line-surveying helicopters as the invention is one of 66 projects competing in the “Road to Maker Faire”, a competition awarding $2,500 to the best creation that wishes to go to Maker Faire next month. Designed at the University of California-San Diego, SkySweeper’s make up of brightly coloured 3D printed components allows it to move along power lines simply by squeezing its legs and checking for faults as it goes along.
Not only does SkySweeper boast the relatively tiny price (for electricity providers) of $1000, but in the future, UC-San Diego mechanical engineering graduate student Nick Morozovsky, who is also the designer of the device, hopes that he will be able to improve SkySweeper so that it can stay on the wires for months at a time. Morozovsky says that SkySweeper would be able to do this by taking power from the lines that it is checking. He also says that hopefully he would allow SkySweeper to move from line to line, which would make it far more efficient that the current methods of checking power lines.
Should SkySweeper do well at the Road to Maker Faire, or even Maker Faire itself, we could see a future where the decreased effort and cost required to check power lines means that power outages due to worn out wires becoming a thing of the past.
Watch a video of the SkySweeper in action below.
We’ll keep you posted once we know more.