Student runs Crawl concept up the utility pole for James Dyson Awards


October 8, 2012

The Crawl is designed for power line maintenance

The Crawl is designed for power line maintenance

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The global James Dyson Awards continues to provide a stage on which young inventors can strut their stuff. The international judges are now reviewing this year’s entries in the lead up to the announcement of the 15 finalists on October 18. One of the entries that was under consideration is the Crawl from Kieran John. It is a pneumatically powered motorized platform designed to improve the efficiency of power line installation and servicing.

Aimed at metropolitan electricity services, the Crawl is designed to replace the insulated truck-mounted booms currently used to raise linespeople up to overhead power lines. It consists of platform that clamps around a utility pole and lifts a linesperson up using a climbing mechanism powered by a pair of 300-watt pneumatic motors driven by an air compressor.

It has the ability to rotate around to avoid obstacles as it ascends and features a leg and shoulder harness to securely hold a person as well as a perch seat to let them rest their legs. The controls are located at the end of the armrests while outer bars enclosing the linesperson protect them from coming into direct contact with the overhead wires.

The device also weighs 30 kg (66 lb) and folds down for storage and transportation on smaller trucks than the 8-tonne vehicles used to carry the truck-mounted booms currently in use. John says helps make it cheaper and more convenient than existing systems.

John's design made it through to the Australian top 10, but unfortunately didn't make it through to the semi-final stage. Keep a look out for a story covering the 15 finalists after they are announced next week.

John's gives an explanation of his design along with a computer animation of how it would work in the video below.

Source: James Dyson Awards

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Good job! :D

Edgar Castelo

Often times pole have conduits and other things mounted on them and this device fails to adapt to clearing and maneuvering on them. Another problem is compromised pole integrity this device would not be safe.

Bryce Guenther

I used to work for SoCalEdison for 15 years as a fleet mechanic, about 7 of those years in Transmissions and Substations. This idea is so limited in scope it just wouldn't be of much benefit across the boards. There are CATV cables and phone lines that are strung on the poles, plus, there are transmission lines (66 Kv) above the District Lines (about 16 to 18Kv), and I don't see how this "device" is going to make it past the District cross arms to get to the Transmission lines where the real fun is. Only in a very few situations would a piece of equipment like this be practical. Most power lines are run for easy access, and the ones that aren't, well we just had to bite the bullet with those.


Expanded Viewpoint

This device fails in several areas;

1 - Most poles have climbing supports along the length of the pole 2 - The pole gripper/drive mechanism will never support the weight of the crawler and person it's carrying to the top of the pole-it's too small and under powered. 3 - If the pole is wet from rain or snow - the crawler will not grip 4 - Concentrating the drive mechanism into such as small area that grips the pole could seriously weaken the pole and the whole crawler mechanism and operator could fall from the pole. There's more but I'm tired.

Richard Corso

trick wouldbe a tree limbing version for use as a deer stand...


Maybe we could redesign the poles to accommodate this thing. While you're working on that, I'll work on placing all utilities underground in a large conduit that would allow easy access to small service vehicles.


Yeah, Trees, Trees & Robots. Harvesting stuff on various kinds of Palm Trees, adding lighting protection to them, hanging temporary lights or antennas to them. I'm suggesting the student go with a tree climbing robot over something used as a human support that realy complicates a task with safety requirements. Skip the deer stand, just send the rifle up the tree on a computer controlled mount and aim with your latest Iphone app "Bambi Mom Blam Blam".

Dave B13

This is more of a concept thing than a final product.. I applaud the inventor for his creativeness .. I'm sure there are things that will need tweaking and changed but it is awesome that we still have young thinkers in our midst.

my hats off to you sir..

and no, I don't work where I would have need for any such device but the youth of America is our future.. encourage their ideas, don't knock it and find the flaws just because you can..

Frank Fain

Where in the world do they still use wooden poles to carry power cables?

Here in rural France most power cables are underground in the villages and the 16 or 32kV cables that can't be underground for some reason are on rectangular section reinforced concrete poles - wood poles last about two years because of scrub fires and termites.


Point 1 its not for every pole. 2 I drive past around 800 poles every day located in padocks with only 3 wires at the top (10m) and the soil is soft when wet making it impossible for a heavy truck (cherry picker) to get close. 3 all the dangly bits like earth wire (Lightening) can fit inside or between the calipers. 4 load is spread over several wheels and at least half a metre so breaking the pole is not an issue. 5 In most country areas cherry pickers are scarce and after a major storm several poles may need attention, good if you can send half a dozen little 4x4 and clear the cause of a blackout. I could go on but I hope the lad makes a million and creates more great ideas.


Re above:"Where in the world do they still use wooden poles to carry power cables?"

Most of urban, suburban & rural Florida, USA including Miami & Fort Lauderdale "FPL's standard service is that supplied by overhead lines, with wood poles, to FPL's designated point of delivery, at the standard voltages specified below." FPL's concrete poles are usualy huge, and even larger transmission towers (aka electricity pylon) are steel structures.

Most of the urban light poles (that are only light poles) are aluminum, some older ones are square section concrete, and a few smaller light poles are fiberglass. Traffic signal poles of square concrete (spanwire) are being replaced by galvanized steel tapered tubes (mast-arm) supports. The mast-arm supports perform better in hurricanes than spanwire.

Also, before & after the bucket trucks came along. Pole Step, detachable pole step, Spike Head pole step (wood) Pole Climbing Demonstration (gaffs) How they climb concrete power poles in Mexico. (choker)

Dave B13

I'm an apprentice lineman in Saskatchewan and this wouldn't work for our poles. When we do service drops and primary dips, the wire just gets fastened to the pole and guards screwed on top, there is no way you could climb a guarded pole with this device. Also, it would take too long to swing around the pole to do work on the other side. As a lineman, you have to work smart, but also really fast and efficient, this does not cut it. We climb with gaffs all the time and only use a bucket once or twice in a year. This is also too much metal to have up the pole, sure it may be grounded, but the potential up there would still be great enough to shock a person. Also, with so much metal up there, you're just asking to bump into a riser or a bushing or something.

Sam Derbawka
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