Who let the dogs out?

Canine-inspired robot used to help with maintenance at National Grid interconnectors
  • Engineers have been using a specialist robot to help improve routine operation and maintenance at National Grid Interconnector sites across the UK

  • The Boston Dynamics trial aims to help improve asset availability and personnel safety

  • This is the first time these have been used on UK National Grid assets

  • The team will now assess data to decide if the robots will become a permanent part of the team

Engineers at National Grid have enlisted the help of high-tech robots to lead the way with routine operation and maintenance activity at its interconnector sites.

The company has 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 walks and moves like man’s best friend.

It uses the latest technology to search out issues or potential issues with equipment by using state of the art visual imaging, thermal imaging and acoustic imaging to find abnormalities as well as LiDAR for 3D scanning and mapping.

The machines are able to access areas human engineers can’t while the asset is operational – potentially reducing outage times and improving the asset availability and safety for engineers.

Data is collected in the same way each time, looking out for hot spots and incipient faults that need extra attention.

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.

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

National Grid Interconnectors Operations Director Jon Davies said: “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 2.6 TWh of power transported across the five cables between the UK and our partner countries.”

National Grid enlisted experienced 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 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."

Find out more about National Grid Interconnectors, how they work and their role in decarbonising the energy system.

Contact for media information only:

Sara Revell
National Grid
[email protected]