Avangrid, a sustainable energy company, has initiated a pilot project in collaboration with Levatas and Boston Dynamics, to carry out substation inspections by robot dog Spot, combined with AI, for conducting visual and thermal inspections at two substations of Avangrid’s Connecticut subsidiary, United Illuminating (UI).
The pilot project is set to occur at UI’s Singer and East Shore substations. It will test various AI models developed by Levatas for tasks such as reading analog gauges, capturing thermal images, and identifying damaged equipment. The robot, nicknamed Sparky by the Avangrid team, is equipped with a camera offering 30 times optical zoom, an infrared camera for thermal readings, and potentially an acoustic sensor for detecting sound anomalies and malfunctioning equipment. The robot also features a core processor to support autonomous navigation and communication.
At the Singer substation, the project aims to assess the robot’s effectiveness in rapidly and accurately detecting and reading analog gauges. At the East Shore substation, the focus will be on the robot’s capacity to inspect transformers, circuit breakers, and capacitor banks. Initially, Sparky will be operated by an on-site controller using a tablet, with plans to implement software for remote operation.
Pedro Azagra, CEO of Avangrid, expressed the company’s commitment to technological innovation in the utility sector. Avangrid previously established a team dedicated to developing unique machine learning models to improve reliability. The current pilot project represents an expansion of this initiative, focusing on AI applications in business operations to enhance efficiency, target investments, and increase customer reliability.
Catherine Stempien, President and CEO of Avangrid Networks, highlighted the groundbreaking nature of this technology and its potential benefits. The increased frequency of substation inspections facilitated by Sparky is expected to provide valuable data, enabling proactive identification of issues and trends to prevent outages and enhance customer service.
Chris Nielsen, CEO of Levatas, expressed excitement about the deployment of AI-enabled Spot robots in Avangrid substations to automate inspections and increase grid reliability. Marco da Silva, Head of Spot Product Development at Boston Dynamics, also commented on the collaboration, emphasizing the potential of mobile robots in solving real-world problems and the positive impact this pilot could have on substation inspections.