To read this content please select one of the options below:

Development and implementation of a robotic inspection system for power substations

Haojie Zhang (China North Vehicle Research Institute, Beijing, China)
Bo Su (China North Vehicle Research Institute, Beijing, China)
Hong Meng (China North Vehicle Research Institute, Beijing, China)

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




With the dramatically increasing number of substations, robots are expected to inspect equipment in the power industry. However, a traditional robotic system cannot work stably because of the strong electromagnetic field in substation. The purpose of this paper is to present a robust and stable robotic system for inspecting the substation equipment without the involvement of workers.


The paper presents in detail a robotic system that consists of a monitor center and a robot. With the monitor center, the workers could send inspection tasks and monitor status of the robot timely. Once a fault is detected, the alarm message will flash immediately to remind the workers. The patrol mode of the robot comprises teleoperation, regular inspection, special inspection and a key return mode. The robot only relies on a low-cost magnetic sensor for lateral positioning and radio frequency identification technology for longitudinal positioning when working under patrol mode. At each stop point, the substation equipment can be recognized quickly through accurate matching with the template image stored in the database.


It is shown that the robot could work efficiently and reliably in power substations. The positioning error is proved to be within 5 mm, compared to that of 20 cm by implementing integrated global positioning system-dead reckoning navigation. Because of the high positioning accuracy, it is much easier to recognize the substation equipment. It is observed that nearly 99 per cent of equipments can be recognized.

Research limitations/implications

The proposed robotic system is tested in a simple substation environment. While the proposed system shows satisfactory positioning results, further studies considering changeable weather condition will focus on improving the equipment recognition rate in such environment, such as rainy, snowy and strong sunlight.

Practical implications

The key contribution of this paper is that it provides a robotic system to inspect substation equipment instead of workers, to improve working efficiency and to reduce manpower cost.


This paper presents a robotic system to inspect substation equipment instead of workers. Four patrol modes are designed to meet the inspection demand. Comparing with the previous robotic systems, this system contributes to higher position accuracy and higher equipment recognition rate.



This work has been partially supported by China North Vehicle Research Institute and Xi’an JinPower Electric Co. Ltd under contract number 03-72. The authors also want to acknowledge the help of colleagues from Unmanned Ground Vehicle Research and Development Center for their support with the experiment environment set up.


Zhang, H., Su, B. and Meng, H. (2017), "Development and implementation of a robotic inspection system for power substations", Industrial Robot, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 333-342.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles