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Robotic ‘Spot’ Dog Demonstrates Impressive Potential in Maintenance Inspections

by Anna

In a groundbreaking trial spearheaded by UK Power Networks, the utilization of the robotic dog named ‘Spot’, designed with proportions akin to a Labrador, has emerged as a remarkable solution for expediting maintenance inspections in confined workspaces. This innovative approach has the potential to slash inspection times by up to 50%, while simultaneously enhancing safety for personnel.

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The agile ‘Spot’ undertakes remotely-guided reconnaissance, employing camera footage and advanced thermal imaging technology. These captured visuals are then integrated into a pioneering machine-learning platform that leverages historical data. This dual strategy ensures the reliability of subterranean cables and facilitates the assessment of the infrastructure’s evolving condition.

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Marking a first-of-its-kind endeavor in the UK, the trial involves the integration of ‘Spot’, developed by US-based company Boston Dynamics, with an array of lights, cameras, and cutting-edge thermal imaging sensors. This amalgamation of technologies equips ‘Spot’ to amass comprehensive data from challenging-to-reach locations.

A collaborative effort with Arup, a leading consultancy in engineering and built environment, is pivotal to the success of this venture. Arup’s web-based platform encompasses a machine-learning interface that meticulously evaluates the state of tunnels and equipment, achieving an unprecedented level of accuracy. This synergy empowers UK Power Networks to tailor maintenance inspections with precision.

Ian Cameron, Director of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks, affirmed, “Our foremost priority is the well-being of our workforce as we steadfastly uphold our commitment to ensure uninterrupted power supply for the public. The integration of ‘Spot’ in conjunction with Arup’s digital interface has yielded remarkable outcomes and holds the potential to considerably curtail risk for personnel engaged in tunnel and shaft inspections. This represents the pinnacle of technological advancement, allowing us to channel our resources into other facets of the network and potentially generating cost savings for our valued customers.”

Mike Devriendt, Project Director at Arup, concurred, stating, “The collaborative journey with UK Power Networks has been truly gratifying as we introduce, evaluate, and apply these avant-garde technologies. We discern immense potential in both the hardware and software components to assist UK Power Networks in enhancing their comprehension of asset conditions while concurrently elevating health and safety protocols.”

Across its operational domains, UK Power Networks administers 47 tunnels, necessitating more than 160 inspections annually, encompassing safety and engineering facets. These inspections translate to an expenditure exceeding £1 million ($1.3 million) annually. Beyond enhancing the safety of engineers, the initiative is forecasted to generate initial savings of £162,000 ($203,764) annually, projected to escalate to £324,000 ($407,527) by 2028.

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