Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Meet the "SkySweeper."
Nick Morozovsky's above invention, the SkySweeper, has at least two brilliant benefits: The acrobatic robot can shimmy down cables and power lines, inspecting them for damage and beaming data back to utility workers, at considerably less cost than your average unmanned helicopter. And in the process, the colorful little guy promises to make the maddening state of power outages a bit more entertaining.
Morozovsky, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at UC San Diego, has developed the robot with off-the-shelf electronics and 3D-printed parts, all of which could be scaled up for municipal use at something close to $1,000 a pop. That's significantly cheaper than the tools and robots utilities current use to inspect overhead infrastructure. The SkySweeper could also harvest energy from the power lines as it works, removing the need to pull the robot down and plug it in. Attach a little camera, and it could also monitor repair sites for workers on the ground.
The SkySweeper is currently competing in the Road to Maker Faire Challenge, with plans for a broader debut at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems later this fall in Japan. In the below video, Morozovsky demonstrates his creation, with its endearing "inchworm" charm:
Now picture what it would be like to stumble unexpectedly upon one of these things in your own neighborhood.