- Facebook has unveiled Bombyx Robot that crawls along power lines to deliver fiber optic cable.
- Bombyx has a unique cable design that combines a lighter-weight braided Kevlar wrapping, reducing the optical fiber count from 96 to 24.
- Although Bombyx is still in development, Facebook Connectivity has already licensed the technology to NetEquity Networks, a high-speed internet firm.
Easing Fiber Optic deployment
Although fiber optic internet cable has numerous advantages over the metal wire, it is often deployed underground, limiting its utility. Facebook, on the other hand, has created a robot that can wrap the wire around existing power lines.
Fiber optic cable, for example, has a larger bandwidth than metal cable, as well as quicker speeds, longer transmission distances, and more security. While it is occasionally transported above ground through existing power line poles, exposure to wind, ice, and temperature extremes can cause it to droop and finally break over time.
As a result, most businesses and governments choose to place it underground.
However, doing so necessitates excavating trenches across the city, installing the fiber optic cable within those trenches (directly or through a conduit), and then filling them back in. This is a costly, disruptive, and time-consuming procedure that is just not viable in many regions of the world.
Facebook Connectivity’s Bombyx Robot
That’s where Facebook Connectivity’s Bombyx robot comes in. The gadget, which gets its name from the Latin word for “silkworm,” is meant to crawl over existing medium-voltage power lines, looping a continuous length of fiber optic cable around them as it goes.
Plans aim for it to eventually be capable of laying more than one kilometer (0.6 miles) of cable in roughly 90 minutes, using machine vision sensors to autonomously navigate “dozens of intervening obstacles” such as insulators. Currently, the working prototype must be manually directed around obstacles using a remote control.
Unfortunately, a 1-km reel of ordinary aerial fiber optic cable is too heavy to be suspended in a single location (inside the robot) on a normal power line. As a result, Bombyx has a unique cable design that combines a lighter-weight braided Kevlar wrapping, reducing the optical fiber count from 96 to 24. According to Facebook, this should be enough to service all of the houses and businesses served by each power line. Furthermore, the new cable has a unique heat-resistant outer jacket, which prevents it from being melted or stretched by the high temperatures that power lines frequently attain.
Although Bombyx is still in development, Facebook Connectivity has already licensed the technology to NetEquity Networks, a high-speed internet firm. Hydro-Quebec, Canada’s public utility corporation, has just created its own line-crawling robot for automated power line inspection.