UC San Diego student's robot could soon be used to protect power lines

Nick Morozovsky's invention resembles inchworm

SAN DIEGO - A UC San Diego student's unique gadget could end be used in the future to save lives and money.

UCSD engineering Ph.D. student Nick Morozovsky calls the gadget, which looks like a mechanical inverted inchworm, the SkySweeper.

"It's designed to move along rope, cables, power lines," he said in a video posted on UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering website.

The website says the robot is made of plastic and parts found in an electronics store. It's used to inspect power lines that historically have been checked out by people and, more recently, by elaborate robots.

"It's a novel design because it only has a motor at the joint," said Morozovsky.

It's really nothing special when compared to existing robots. Existing machines have multiple motors, cameras and all the bells and whistles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Existing robots that do power line inspections have many motors and many degrees of freedom, which makes them expensive," said Morozovsky.

According to the website, the SkySweeper could be built for around $1,000.

"Sensors can be added to monitor the condition of the cable or to measure how much power is being transmitted," Morozovsky said.

He added the SkySweeper is still a work in progress.

A San Diego Gas & Electric spokeswoman told 10News the SkySweeper's progress is something they would consider following. The spokeswoman said protecting the lines is paramount for SDG&E. The energy provider continuously inspects 25,000 miles of wires using helicopters, high-tech cameras and even robots.  

Downed power lines were blamed for the 2007 wildfires.

Cal Fire is already on high alert, as they have responded to 680 wildfires statewide this year alone -- 200 more than this time last year.

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