HEFEI — A robotic dog trots back and forth between the transmission towers at the Guquan converter station in the mountains of eastern China, conducting a thorough inspection of the grid facilities.
"The robotic dog is equipped with two infrared cameras capable of identifying equipment defects such as loose mechanical connections and gas leaks," said staff member Sun Chaopeng.
The four-legged robot sets out at a fixed time every day and automatically returns to recharge its battery. It is just one example of the widespread use of automation technology in ensuring power supply during the winter peak in China.
The grid the robot inspected is part of a 1,100-kilovolt ultrahigh voltage power line running 3,284 kilometers from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to the eastern province of Anhui. The "electric highway" boasts the highest voltage, largest transmission capacity and longest distance of any power line in the world.
China's west-to-east power transmission program transmits surplus electricity from western regions rich in power-generating resources to eastern regions that need more electricity to power economic activities.
A shortage of workers used to pose a grave challenge to the maintenance of such projects, especially in remote areas, but robots have now begun to alleviate that pressure.
In Xinhe, a town in Chizhou, Anhui, that is surrounded by mountains, a white fixed-wing drone flew out of its movable nest and deftly shuttled between interweaving transmission lines in a valley. Within half an hour, it had completed its 80 km inspection mission.
The high-definition zoom lens mounted on the device captures images of key grid components, such as insulators, and transmits them in real-time to a platform.
With assistance from artificial intelligence models, analysts sitting behind the displays can promptly identify potential line damage.
"The high mountains in Chizhou make manual inspection quite difficult and dangerous," grid technician Hu Jinchao said. "Drones provide an effective solution thanks to their high speed, long cruising range and large inspection radius."
Firefighters at the Guquan converter station also use a fire-detection robot. Equipped with a fire hydrant interface and multiple cameras, the remotely controlled device is capable of working in extreme conditions.
"This robot can operate in a temperature range of — 20 C to 60 C and can spray water or foam up to 80 meters," firefighter Yu Cong said.
The robotic firefighting system, seven times more effective than a conventional water spray and 2.5 times more effective than conventional foam, had improved the firefighting capabilities of ultrahigh voltage converter stations, Yu said.