18/07/2020

Robotic arm: innovative solution enables safer and more efficient tree pruning

    innovation
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A pioneer project from Neoenergia​ currently in progress consists in the development of a robotic arm for tree pruning, integrating the articulated arm with the pruning tool, which includes a claw, a saw and a trimmer. The initiative aims to bring more safety and efficiency to the service, preventing any branches from affecting the service on power distribution networks and lines. The project is part of the Research and Development program regulated by the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL), and is under improvement of prototype, to be completed in three years.​

The Robotic Arm shall be operated from a distance by the operator, which will drive the technology by the use of a remote control control and a panel, on which the entire maneuver is monitored through cameras installed directly on the equipment on different angles. “Innovation ensures a series of benefits, such as service optimization and safety of the team that performs the service. The robotic arm prevents the collaborator from being suspended in the aerial basket, such as in the current pruning model, which performs the service directly on the tree. Results are increased operation safety and efficiency, in addition to improving operator’s ergonomics”, says Eduardo Casarin, fleet engineer at Neoenergia​​.​​

José Antônio Brito, Neoenergia’s research and development corporate manager, also affecting the importance of the initiative. “The robotic arm for tree pruning is another R&D program project for Neoenergia which is aligned with the safety strategy theme. This project reinforces the R&D commitment in developing projects that yield products that are effectively applied to the improvement of company services”.​

HOW IT WORKS:

The technology is under construction along with two partners. The Science and Technology Center (Lactec) is responsible for design and technological development and IMAP/Ecosol is in charge of the equipment’s structure. Optical fiber will be used to carry out communication between the end and the base of the robot, for connection of the robotic arm, with electric insulation of up to 46 thousand volts (kV) Whereas from the base to the industrial remote controller, operated by a company employee, the connection will be carried out via radio. The technology ensures that the cut branch is deposited carefully on the ground, including sensors that detect if the grid is powered in order to maintain safe distance from the cables.​

“The proposed model for the robotic arm for tree pruning has led to national and international patents, as of the development of the initial prototype, made by Lactec partnered with Neoenergia, demonstrating the originality of the project. In addition to the robotic parts, the equipment stands out by the connection of various tools, a claw, a saw and a trimmer. When the prototype is completed, the testing phase starts for aspects such as usability, ergonomics and control interface”, says Tui Baraniuk, researcher and developer at Lactec.

The equipment also includes a differential feature developed by IMAP/Ecosol. Called “Other Side”, this technology consists in adding a rotation system between the lower and the upper arm, which allows significant gains in arm mobility. “Increased versatility and safety is attained with the equipment being able to reach the pruning point without exposure to the power grid structure, in addition to increased productivity made possible by the reach of the arms, thus decreasing vehicle repositioning requirements and work site signaling”, adds Santiago König, engineer at IMAP/Ecosol.​



The adapted truck shall also include a tow coupled to the rear, which will grind and store any residue from tree pruning, to be discarded properly. Initially, two trucks will be delivered for use by Neoenergia, through Elektro, which addresses 223 municipalities of the State of São Paulo and other five municipalities of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. From then on, he project is to be expanded to other States where the company operates = Bahia (Coelba), Pernambuco (Celpe) and Rio Grande do Norte (Cosern).​​

IMPORTANCE OF TREE PRUNING​​

Threes in an urban environment provide various benefits, such as air quality, shaded areas, animal shelter and food, in addition to scenic beauty. However, in some situations, they may reach the power grid, affecting the power provision services and increasing the risk of accidents. Tree pruning is an important task that must be carried out in a preventive and periodic manner, in order to ensure the harmonious coexistence between nature and the power grid.​

As part of the maintenance plans, Neoenergia carries out preventive pruning in cases where power provision or people safety is at risk. The activity may only be carried out by a qualified professional and upon authorization from the city hall. When any situation that involves wiring and trees, the population may call the city administration by the respective communication channels and the city hall will reach out to the local power provider. For questions, the power distribution companies of Neoenergia are available through phone number 116.​​

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