Facebook Connectivity has developed an aerial fibre deployment solution for medium voltage power lines. What is striking about its system is that it is done through a robot that automates the process, in order to reduce costs in fibre deployment. From Facebook, they hope to carry out the first tests in late 2021.
The robot is capable of autonomously installing aerial fibre we are going to show you how it works, the challenges your engineers have faced and everything related to this project, the less curious.
Facebook has developed a curious solution to install aerial fibre. The main objective is to reduce the cost of fibre installation and make it more accessible. According to their engineering portal, the idea comes after travelling through Africa and observing that the medium voltage lines were quite expanded, despite the low electrification rate of the African continent. Using this medium-voltage line and a robot, it is possible to install fibre optics “automatically”.
At a technological level this is a great challenge since the infrastructure must be prepared to support fibre cable connection, study what capacity the robot will have to store cable (fibre cables are thick and heavy), ensure that the robot can avoid obstacles and else.
Studying these critical points, Facebook engineers have developed a robot capable of installing, according to them, about a kilometre of fibre autonomously in an hour and a half. The robot does not need any kind of human control, it works by itself. It has a vision system to identify obstacles, maintains the distance between cables to avoid dangers related to high voltage and has a complex stabilization system since it does not stop being a heavy robot that advances by a cable relatively thin compared to its size.
At the operating level, the robot, which contains the fibre reel, wraps the medium voltage structure with the fibre cable. When there is an obstacle, the robot tries to avoid it and stops winding the cable if it is not possible.
Facebook indicates that they expect the total cost, including labour and materials, to be between $ 2 and $ 3 per meter in countries in, start-up American focused on developing cheap fibre optic infrastructure.