Robots now play a vital role in the power utility space in operations and maintenance and asset inspection, leading to savings on costs.

FREMONT, CA: The deployment of robotics in power plants for operations and maintenance is increasing. This is great news for the future of power plant management and optimization. The main objective of robots and drones in the power sectors is attaining complete autonomy, without needing human intervention, to perform inspection, maintenance, and maintenance activities at dangerous areas or sites. Read on to know more.

The latest study reported on attitudes toward robotic inspection among vital electric power industry stakeholders. Power sector acceptance of this approach should continue to trend upward. More than 82 percent of firms have conducted a robotic inspection on at least one unit in their fleet, and nearly two-thirds reported satisfaction with the outcomes. Robotics in power plants can replace employees at the application, allowing operators to remotely access hazardous and inaccessible areas in a safe and cost-effective method. This is especially needed for nuclear power stations to reduce the exposure of workers to radiation. Robots have inspected nuclear reactors, where high radiation levels make direct inspections impossible.

When the testing units are too heavy for a drone or the areas are inaccessible, robot inspections are a suitable option. One growth area for robotics in the sector is boiler tube inspection. Tube wall failures can create forced outages, but manual inspections are not seamless and take several days. Robotic tube inspections can accurately find and prevent failures in a fraction of the time. The usage of robots to ultrasonically test boiler tube walls helps in rapidly identifying trouble spots.

Researchers found that robotic inspections on power units face challenges. For example, not all generator air gaps can be evaluated by the larger robots, and some generators have additional obstructions that need precise maneuverability that not all robots can offer. Also, unlike rotor-out visual inspections that allow human inspectors to view defects directly at close range, robotic inspections need technicians to interpret camera images, which sometimes distort color and size.

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