Researchers at RMIT University have developed a sensor system that is capable of detecting and locating electrical discharges that originate from defects on equipment used to distribute power to train lines.

Drawing on inspiration from electric fish, the system is based on wireless sensing and high-speed Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) signal processing technology.

Electromagnetic sensors with broadband characteristics are used to detect abnormal radiation in high voltage systems, and data collected from multiple units can be used to perform statistical analysis and time-frequency analysis simultaneously.

Associate Professor Alan Wong from RMIT’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering told IoT Hub that such technology is capable of detecting faults with a high degree of accuracy.

“We are able to identify high-risk zones with an accuracy of one-to-four percent of the total length of the feeder line being monitored,” he said.

Wong added that the detection units are designed for permanent deployment in the field, and provide continuous data collection and condition monitoring.

Such a system has the potential to greatly reduce the man-hours required to perform manual inspection – which has been the traditional method of detecting line faults - as well as minimise down-time from unscheduled outages.

“The units will significantly reduce the time to search for problem spots and for condition-based maintenance work to be carried out,” Wong said.

“This system delivers a cost-effective, 24-hour remote monitoring solution that will reduce unplanned power outages, catastrophic failures such as pole-top fires, and subsequent penalties in distribution networks.”