Thursday, July 16, 2020

Facebook builds a robot for aerial fiber deployment

Facebook, in collaboration with industry partners, is developing an aerial fiber deployment robot for installing a specialized fiber-optic cable on medium-voltage (MV) power lines.

Conventional aerial fiber deployment methods require existing infrastructure must be modified to support the new fiber cable attachment. The helical wrap method, which uses a machine to wind a fiber-optic cable around an existing power-line conductor, often requires cranes to lift the machine past obstacles on the line. Another constraining factor is the size/weight of the fiber cable.

Facebook said it is working on several innovations to address these issues, including a spool-free cable coil geometry that meets clearance requirements around the conductor to allow passing obstacles, all while maintaining a center of mass aligned within 2 mm of the center of the power line. The robot, which is designed to allow installation of fiber while the conductors are energized, comprises a pair of drive subsystems, a lift subsystem, and a rotation subsystem. This enables the robot to pass obstacles.