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Application of Knowledge-based Expert System to High-voltage Transmission Line Maintenance Mohd Junaizee Mohd Noor*, David Birtwhistle* and

Stewart C. Bell** *School of Electrical & Electronic Systems Engineering Queensland University of Technology **Powerlink Queensland
Abstract Development of a knowledge-based expert system applied to high-voltage transmission lines maintenance is shown in this paper. The expert system runs on the Matlab platform, utilizing its proprietary Fuzzy Logic Toolbox. The inputs to the expert system are transmission line component inspection record as observed by the maintenance crew during routine inspections. The output of the system indicates the overall condition of the transmission lines. Application of the expert system methodology on glass insulator inspection is shown as an illustration. The expert system may be of valuable assistance to utility engineers or asset managers in making strategic maintenance decisions such as emergency maintenance, condition-based maintenance or do nothing. 1. INTRODUCTION rusty, fair, moderate, poor which comes up during visual inspection and defect evaluation of existing transmission towers. Inference as used by the expert system is by way of IF-THEN rules with appropriately assigned weighting to indicate the gravity of the rules. The concept of fuzzy rule-based system has been used in many applications such as that used by Tee et al [1] in assessing concrete slab bridges. Kaminaris et al [2] utilized the concept in substation maintenance management and subsequently used it in an expert system design. The application was also used by Islam [3] to diagnose transformer faults. Kim & Morcos [4] applied the concept in assessing the useful life of ACSR conductors. Hathout [5] applied the technique to determine how safe existing transmission lines in Ontario Hydro networks are and later [6] utilized it to assist engineers in transmission lines damage assessment. 2. COMPONENTS OF TRANSMISSION LINES: THEIR FUNCTIONS & FAILURE MODES The main purpose of the transmission tower is to carry overhead transmission line conductors and earthwires above the ground [7]. In fulfilling this role, it has to withstand all the variety of forces that it is exposed to with regards to the environment it is located in. These forces include wind loads, erection loads, maintenance loads, and changing of conductor sags as conductors expand and contract with daily load variations. In addition, the tower must also

Tower inspection results from periodic inspection provide critical information for utilities to formulate transmission line strategies. The effectiveness of these strategies relies very much upon the quality of inspection so that defects can be detected and addressed accordingly to avert failures. Inspection data may be collected in quantitative or qualitative forms: quantitative by making certain measurements using test instruments and qualitative by visual assessment. Visual inspection, unfortunately, is subjective as judgment with regards to the degree of defect is strictly based on human intuition. Evaluation of defect levels may vary as it depends on personal experience, knowledge, and condition. Consequently, a technique that can incorporate the subjective judgment (i.e. cognitive uncertainty) which is inherent in tower inspection is required. The technique which is proposed in this paper is in the form of a knowledge-based expert system that will accept qualitative and quantitative data from the tower inspection and process them to produce a quantifiable output that indicates the actual condition of the tower. Quantitative data from measurements using instruments are entered as numerical inputs. Cognitive uncertainties associated with data collected by visual inspection and assessment are handled using fuzzy logic as it was specifically developed to deal with the fuzziness of human perception and decision making process. Furthermore, fuzzy logic provides an organized framework for dealing with linguistic quantifiers such as good, normal, bad,

maintain the electrical clearances between live conductors and any earthed body in the vicinity of the tower such that the lines do not induce any hazardous voltage that could be harmful and dangerous to the public. Finally, the tower also provides a path to earth lightning current that occasionally strikes the earthwire. Transmission lines are basically made up of four components [7]. Their functions and corresponding failure modes are as follows: 2.1 Foundations Tower foundations provide anchorage for the tower to ground. The type and depth of foundations depend on the soil condition and the orientation of the tower (to cater for the compression and tension forces the tower is subjected to). Most foundations are constructed by using galvanized-steel reinforced concrete (also termed grillage foundations). Since the foundations are buried in soil, they are exposed to corrosive elements of the ground. When the steel reinforcement becomes rusty and brittle, they lose their strength and the tower may become unstable. Rusty steel reinforcements can be detected by using the half-cell measurement device [8]. Excessive soil movement may result in displacement of the tower foundations and making the tower unstable. 2.1 Structures The tower structure makes up the entire body of the transmission tower. It can be categorically divided into tower legs, tower body, and crossarms. Depending on factors such as public concerns, erection techniques and inspection practice, the structure design can be of self-supporting lattice, cantilever or guyed poles, or framed structures. Most structures are made of galvanized steel because of its convenience for fabrication, relatively easy transportation and strength. Steel towers are very prone to corrosion which can result in structural failure. Other failure symptoms include deformations, differential settlement and excessive deflections. 2.3 Insulators Insulators are utilized to attach the conductors to the crossarms of transmission towers and serve two main purposes: to provide sufficient mechanical support and to isolate live parts from earth potential. They are therefore made up of a combination of dielectric and mechanical strength materials. Typical dielectric materials used are glass, porcelain, and polymers. Steel or fiberglass rod provides mechanical strength. Failure modes can therefore be made up of either

electrical or mechanical depending on the damage to these materials. 2.4 Conductors/Earthwires Conductors carry rated current up to their maximum design temperatures within their mechanical design limits. In satisfying this purpose, they need to maintain even sags throughout the line route so that ground clearances stay within statutory limits. Conductors are mainly made up of stranded aluminum alloys with galvanized steel reinforcements. Because conductor construction is limited by drum lengths, conductors are joined together using aluminum and steel compression sleeves during construction. Conductors are prone to corrosion especially in heavily industrialized areas which have high levels of contaminants in the atmosphere. The joints present critical weak points along the conductor as corrosive contaminants accumulate more easily in them than in the conductors. Symptoms that show deteriorating joints can be detected by measuring their temperature and resistance [9]. 3. LINE INSPECTION PRACTICES

Utilities maintain transmission lines by conducting periodic inspection with the main intention being to detect incipient defects that could lead to failures. These inspections are mainly based on visual examination by trained linesmen. Most utilities combine aerial and ground line inspections as part of their maintenance regime [10]. Aerial inspection using helicopters facilitates detection of major component deterioration and macro inspection of the structures in a circuit. Typically defects such as broken insulator disks, severe tower deformation, conductor caging and foreign materials like birds nests can be detected from the air. Ground line inspections can detect defects such as weathering and corrosion of steel structures, lattice member deformation, concrete foundation cracks and displacements due to ground movement. Normally visual aids such as binoculars and video/still cameras are utilized to assist the inspection process [11]. Specific measuring instruments such as joint resistance meters and thermovision cameras are invariably used to detect conductor joint defects. Conditions of the components are normally categorized based on the severity of the defect as perceived by the inspector. This can be made of either a grading scale such as from 1 to 5 (bad 1 good 5) or small-medium-large range. The results of the inspection are normally used to trigger such corrective actions as one of the following [12]: (1) requires immediate action (emergency maintenance);

(2) requires inspection in next maintenance cycle (condition-based maintenance); (3) no further action required. 4. DEALING WITH UNCERTAINTY

(b) its usability in a rule-based system 5. THE EXPERT SYSTEM

Since defect severity assessment is based on human judgment, there is a considerable level of uncertainty about the results of the inspection. There are several ways to handle uncertainties, such as [13]: 4.1 Bayesian inference: This method calculates the probability of occurrence based on prior conditional or joint probabilities. It also requires a set of hypotheses to initially suggest the actual condition before inferring it to the prior probabilities. In practicality, reference data may not be available for calculation. 4.2 Certainty factors: A certainty factor is a numerical value between 0 and 1 that stands for the degree of confirmation of a hypothesis based on certain evidence. 4.3 Dempster-Shafer theory of evidence: This method calculates belief functions measurements of the degree of belief. This approach involved many numerical computations and could become very complex if there are many variables involved. 4.4 Fuzzy logic: This method assigns degrees of membership from 0 to 1 to a function: 0 means not a member to a function, 1 means a member of the function and anything in between denotes partial memberships. Membership functions can be specified using linguistic properties inherent in human reasoning i.e. tall, fast, high, and low. The methods presented above have their own merits and each would have its applications suitable for specific reasons. Fuzzy logic is used in the expert system application presented in this paper due to: (a) its ability to represent and process data based on linguistic information

The expert system which is presented in this paper attempts to capture the preceding information with regards to the practice of transmission line maintenance. The system accepts inputs in terms of the condition of the major components of transmission lines, namely the foundations, structures, insulators and conductors as reported by the maintenance crew, processes the information in a fuzzy inference system, and provides an output that infers the overall condition of the tower. The inspection data is both qualitative and quantitative. Figure 1 shows the structure of the expert system. The system is designed to accept inputs based on the condition of grillage foundations, steel lattice structures, glass cap and pin insulator strings and Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced (ACSR) conductors and earthwires. However, these inputs may be changed based on the type of tower or types of component used by the utility. The system runs in the MATLAB program platform and utilizes its proprietary Fuzzy Logic Toolbox as the inference engine. MATLAB is chosen because of its flexibility, relatively simple programming and GUI facilities that make it easy to design. Information about component defects and knowledge about the effects of component defects are captured and transformed into fuzzy IF-THEN rules in the fuzzy inference system. Each Fuzzy Rule block in the expert system represents a fuzzy inference system. It contains input and output membership functions and the rules relating the inputs and outputs of the respective items. Appropriate weighting is assigned to the rules depending on the intensity of the relationship. Mamdani-type fuzzy inference method is selected as it combines the fuzzy sets from the consequent of all the rules through Matlabs built-in aggregation operator and the resulting fuzzy sets are defuzzified to yield a crisp output [14]. Defuzzification in the system is by way of centroid (center-of-area) calculation.

Glass sheds Insulators Pin corrosion

% broken

Fuzzy inference system


Pin diameter Rust Appearance

Fuzzy Rules 2

Fuzzy Rules 1

Joint resistance Conductors Joint temperature Deformation Structure Corrosion Rust Appearance Rust size

Fuzzy Rules 3

Fuzzy Rules 7
Fuzzy Rules 5

Tower Condition

Fuzzy Rules 4

Corrosion Foundations Displacement

Fuzzy Rules 6

Figure 1: Structure of transmission line maintenance expert system 6. EXAMPLE APPLICATION: ASSESSMENT OF INSULATORS To illustrate the method, consider the information gathered regarding the condition of glass cap & pin insulators on the tower. During an inspection, the maintenance crew would look at whether there are any broken insulator sheds in a string. The crew would also check whether there is sign of rust on the pins. These two observations are critical to the operation of the insulators as they indicate both the electrical and mechanical properties of the insulator respectively. The number of insulators in a string is a function of the transmission voltage: the higher the operating voltage, the larger the number of insulators in a string. For example, a 132kV suspension insulator string would normally have 10 standard insulators in a string. Any broken insulator in a string would reduce the insulation level of the transmission lines. There is nevertheless a certain level of tolerance that utilities normally practice when they encounter broken insulators in a string i.e. 1 or 2 broken insulators in a 10-insulator string is still acceptable whereas 5 broken insulators would require immediate replacement. Therefore, what is significance is the percentage of broken insulators in a string. Referring to Figure 1, when the number of broken glass insulators is entered into the expert system, it consequently converts the number into percentage and enters the figure into Fuzzy Rule 1. Pin corrosion on an insulator can be determined by looking at pin diameter and appearance of rust on the pin. Both are fuzzy values since during an inspection, the crew would only be able to estimate the pin diameter and judge the appearance of rust on the pin. The crew would scan the string to determine the worst insulator in the string (i.e. the smallest pin diameter and the rustiest) and record them. An example cap and pin insulator showing broken porcelain disc and badly corroded pin is shown in Figure 2. Referring to Figure 1, when these data are fed into the system, they are processed by Fuzzy Rules 2. The output of Fuzzy Rules 2 is in turn fed into Fuzzy Rules 1. The output of Fuzzy Rules 1 indicates the overall condition of the insulators on the tower.

Figure 2: Example of a broken cap and pin insulator with arrow showing corroded pin

6.1 engine

Knowledge-base for insulator inference

bad 1 medium good

The knowledge-base for the insulator inference engine is represented by the membership functions and rules of Fuzzy Rules 1. These parameters can be defined based on past operational records, industry best-practice, technical specifications or manufacturers recommendations through knowledge acquisition techniques. The parameters used to represent insulator condition are shown in membership functions in Figures 3, 4 and 5. The popular triangular and trapezoidal membership functions are used [3]. In Figure 3, as discussed in the previous section, it is shown that more than 50% insulator shed breakage represents membership function for large percentage of broken insulator sheds.
small 1 medium large

0.8 Degree of membership




0 0 1 2 3 4 5 insulator 6 7 8 9 10

Figure 5: Membership functions for the output condition of insulator The rules that are used in Fuzzy Rules 1 are as follows: 1. IF [% broken is small] AND [pin is good] THEN [insulator is good] (weight: 1) 2. IF [% broken is small] AND [pin is average] THEN [insulator is good] (weight: 0.6) 3. IF [% broken is small] AND [pin is bad] THEN [insulator is bad] (weight: 0.9) 4. IF [% broken is medium] AND [pin is good] THEN [insulator is medium] (weight: 1) 5. IF [% broken is medium] AND [pin is average] THEN [insulator is bad] (weight: 0.6) 6. IF [% broken is medium] AND [pin is bad] THEN [insulator is bad] (weight: 0.9) 7. IF [% broken is large] AND [pin is good] THEN [insulator is bad] (weight: 0.7) 8. IF [% broken is large] AND [pin is average] THEN [insulator is bad] (weight: 0.8) 9. IF [% broken is large] AND [pin is bad] THEN [insulator is bad] (weight: 1) The rules are configured to relate the condition of both the inputs (% broken insulators and condition of the pin) to the output (condition of insulators) of the system. The weights associated to each rule indicate the gravity of the relationship. For instance, the combination of a large percentage of broken insulators and bad pin reflects a higher degree of severity compared to a large percentage of broken insulators and average pin condition. The output, after defuzzification by the system, is a single number which is compared against a scale of 1 to 10 (1 bad 10 good) to indicate the overall condition of the insulator. 6.2. Example operation To illustrate the operation of the insulator fuzzy inference system (Fuzzy Rules 1), consider a 132kV tower with 10-unit standard glass suspension

0.8 Degree of membership




0 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 %broken 70 80 90 100

Figure 3: Membership functions for percentage of broken insulator sheds

Bad 1



0.8 Degree of membership




0 0 1 2 3 4 5 pin 6 7 8 9 10

Figure 4: Membership functions for rust condition on insulator pins

insulator strings attached on it. During inspection, it is noticed that 2 insulator units are broken in the string. The worst pin diameter in the insulator string is observed to be approximately 5 cm and rust appearance on a scale of 1 (worse) - 10 (good) is 9. One would expect that the insulator string is still serviceable. When the inspection data are used as input to Fuzzy Rule Block 1, it gives an output measure of 8.756 denoting it is still within the membership function for good (Refer to Figure 6). This measure would be then used by the transmission lines engineer to suggest taking no action. The same would be done on the rest of the components of the transmission lines when all of the components are used as inputs to Fuzzy Rules 7. The output of Fuzzy Rules 7 will indicate the overall condition of the tower in question (refer to Figure 1). Note here that appropriate weighting is assigned in the rules to indicate, for example, bad foundations would have a more serious impact on the integrity of the tower compared to bad conductors. The transmission lines engineer would then be able to use this measure to assist in making certain strategic decisions such as emergency maintenance, attention in next periodic maintenance, or do nothing. 7. CONCLUSIONS









Data collected visually during tower inspections contain high levels of cognitive uncertainty human interpretation. This type of uncertainty, based on the available methods mentioned in this paper, can be best handled by fuzzy logic. The concept is applied in a knowledge-based expert system that converts subjective observations of tower component inspection into a more objective and useful representation of overall tower condition. Application of part of the expert system concerning the evaluation of glass cap and pin insulators is shown in this paper as an example. The output of the expert system can be utilized as a basis for utility asset managers to make maintenance decisions thus improving maintenance quality and overall reliability. 8.



[13] [14]

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