Drones and Robotics

Power grid inspection and AM are an integral part of power grid maintenance. Drones and robotic technology can be used with the goal of improving the quality and productivity of the power grid maintenance, which will ultimately support reliability and cost-effectiveness. Automated data acquisition and management will play a larger role for predictive maintenance and will leverage drones and robotics for data collection and analysis.

Technology Types

  • Piloted drones (Unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs])
  • Autonomously flying drones (Unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs])
  • Robotic inspection

    • Rolling Robots
    • Climbing robots
    • Brachiating robots
    • Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs)
  • Robotic maintenance

  • Robotic arms with different equipment.

Components & enablers

  • Self-positioning (GPS and image processing)
  • FPV control
  • Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM)
  • Live line equipment used by robots (hot sticks, insulated jibs, insulated boom trucks, stripping machine, electric wrench, wire breaking pliers etc.)
  • Sensors for navigation as well as detecting steel corrosion and gathering visual, thermal, UV and audible information
  • Robot/drone power supply

Advantages & field of application

Today, power grid inspections are mainly done manually with the help of power line engineers, which often requires laborious work and power trans-mission interruptions. The introduction of drones and robotics in power system maintenance brings several advantages to the power industry:

  • Increase safety and decrease risks to maintenance technicians
  • Decrease maintenance equipment downtime
  • Enhance accuracy in data collection of an asset’s condition
  • Reduce staffing need and associated employment cost
  • Repurpose maintenance inspection of truck rolls for other uses

Drones are currently piloted but have a potential to fly autonomously through GPS self-positioning. When using GPS, flying near high voltage lines could lead to drone flight errors. Self-position estimation through image processing could solve this issue when the GPS is not available. Drones as well as robots installed for line inspection and maintenance will be supported with sensors, power supply and various maintenance equipment to perform or assist in maintenance work, depending on the nature of the task.

Technology Readiness Level

TRL Score 7 - system prototype demonstration in operational environment.

Research & Development

Current fields of research: autonomous flight control, longer ranges, smarter navigation, UTM.

Innovation priority: automation, image processing, improved robotic movement over obstacles.

Best practice performance

Very application specific, hence complex to give performance benchmarks.

Best practice application


The LineScout Robot was developed for live transmission line inspection. and maintenance

LineScout, designed by Hydro Quebec is built to clear different obstacles such as dampers, corona rings etc. while moving along the transmission line and is able to reach and function in places that are otherwise limited for line workers. Highly precise inspections are possible through infrared, high-quality visual inspection and electrical resistance measurement. LineScout is also able to perform different maintenance tasks such as tightening and loosening bolted assemblies, temporary repair of broken conductor strands.

Main savings are achieved through decrease in shutdown time of lines and an increase in flexibility and efficiency during inspection.


The ROBTET telerobotic system has been designed for automated maintenance tasks on the Spanish power network.

The system works semi automatically, controlled by an operator in the truck cabin. A telescopic boom carries telemanipulators and tools to perform different maintenance tasks such as insulator set change, attaching a jumper cable between two points of the line, opening switching units and replacing fuse elements.

Live line maintenance is made possible through the telerobotic system without cutting supply.



RTE has launched several experiments with drones : drone in a substation or drone around a tower operated by a Rte crewman with live video or picture camera for diagnostic maintenance, drone pulling a bout cable to initiate the leverage of the main aerial cable, long distance drone (over 50 km) remotly operated drone to survey a 400 kV line.

the long distance drone weights 2 kg, has a 50 km 50 minutes range flight at 150m height at 50 km/h speed.

Since 2016, RTE is an official aeronautic drone operator. Drones simplify maintenance diagnostic in live line conditions. It gives flexible alternative to helicopters in some specific use case. 500 line crewmen will be trained to be fully operational in 2021.


[1] S. Sato and T. Anezaki, "Autonomous flight drone for infrastructure (transmission line) inspection (2)," 2017 International Conference on Intelligent Informatics and Biomedical Sciences (ICIIBMS), Okinawa, 2017, pp. 294-296. [Link]

[2] Elia group innovation. Drones today and future development. [Link]

[3] S. Montambault and N. Pouliot, "About the future of power line robotics," 2010 1st International Conference on Applied Robotics for the Power Industry, Montreal, QC, 2010, pp. 1-6. [Link]

[4] L. Li et al., "A state-of-the-art survey of the robotics applied for the power industry in China," 2016 4th International Conference on Applied Robotics for the Power Industry (CARPI), Jinan, 2016, pp. 1-5. [Link]

[5] O. Menendez, F. A. Auat Cheein, M. Perez and S. Kouro, "Robotics in Power Systems: Enabling a More Reliable and Safe Grid," in IEEE Industrial Electronics Magazine, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 22-34, June 2017. [Link]

[6] Hydro Quebec. LineScout. [Link]

[ 7 ] IFAC publications. Robots for live-power lines: maintenance and inspection tasks. [Link]

[8] ENTSO-E Report. Usage of Drones across the TSOs [Link]