Self-heating robot battles winter chills to perform outdoor work in NE China

Extremely cold weather often hinders the operation of robotic arms in winter, as they tend to get stuck or fail to work properly.

State Grid (国家电网), China’s state-owned power supplier, recently deployed a mobile robot capable of adjusting its own temperature while functioning in a frigid outdoor environment in northeastern China.

The local branch of State Grid in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, unleashed a robot that was suspended from electric cables. It was tasked with connecting 10kV wires and performing maintenance checks.

The robot, the size of an electric generator, stood out from its peers in that it could heat itself to withstand the winter chills.

Mercury in Jilin slumped to minus 12 degrees Celsius on November 30, causing greater difficulty for local power suppliers to perform safety checks on electricity equipment.

According to some managers with State Grid, the robot set a record as the first droid to be used in a temperature as low as minus 12 degrees.

Extremely cold weather often hinders the operation of robotic arms in winter, as they tend to get stuck or fail to work properly.

To tackle this issue, technicians with the local State Grid team came up with what they called a “distributed smart temperature control device.”

A maintenance robot equipped with the device could monitor its own temperature in real time. Once it plummets, the robot would heat itself back to a working range of temperature.

This is to keep built-in batteries and other accessories in running order, technicians were quoted as saying.

Nonetheless, they did not disclose the lowest cold tolerance limits of the robot.

In recent years, China’s power suppliers increasingly resort to robotics to supplant human workers, out of concern for their safety and in a bid to bolster efficiency.

These robots are often attached to utility poles or electric cables, while staff on the ground operate them remotely.

They guide the robotic arms to complete a series of tasks, freeing manpower for more productive work.

In some cases, with the introduction of robots, one employee can finish the task that normally would have required three to five men, Chinese media reports said.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at

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