NBN Co Might Soon Give Robots NBN Maintenance Jobs

NBN Co Might Soon Give Robots NBN Maintenance Jobs

NBN Co is collaborating with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to explore use cases for robots across the NBN network.

That’s right; robots are coming to solve the NBN and fix the gigantic infrastructure project. Just kidding, but they may end up helping out with infrastructure and maintenance work across the network.

In particular, a major use case NBN Co has been exploring so far has involved a small four-wheeled robot, capable of driving through a PVC pipe with fibre optic cable laid throughout.

With a camera mounted to the bot, this gives robots a pretty good job on the fixed-line network: exploring faulty fixed-line connections by following the cables directly, where NBN technicians typically can’t squeeze in.

NBN Co released this video about the initiative, featuring Gizmodo Australia’s favourite robot, Spot the Dog, in a Nokia helmet (this robot has been used for proof-of-concept tests).

Speaking of Nokia, the company announced that it was teaming up with NBN Co to improve the network last week.

“This will take time, but if we can make an improvement in the time and quality of field activities that materially de-risk or improves the efficiency of the programs, then it is worth us investigating,” the NBN’s executive manager of asset leverage and innovation Rod Ferguson said.

“There is also a lot of scope for expanding this as we grow our capability.”

Potential future use cases include clearing blocked conduits, hauling cables through tight spots and collecting 3D data in enclosed spaces.

The project is being led by Eleanor Forwood, a member of the NBN Graduate program. She has previously studied mechatronics engineering.

It’s also being worked on in collaboration with UTS, which has been working on proof-of-concept tests.

The next step is to deploy the robots in field tests, assisting technicians across the NBN network.

“We have collected a range of use cases so far, each of which will likely require a different robotic solution, so we will be selecting one or two based on NBN priority as well as technical feasibility,” Forwood said.

“We hope our next live demonstration may be of a prototype robot fulfilling one of these use cases, such as identifying or removing a blockage in a conduit.”

Look, if robots can help keep my internet online so I can keep playing Fortnite with fast downloads, then I’m all for it.

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