Efficient and Effective

Low Cost Fault Current Measurement of Wooden Poles

Project Data

Start date:


End date:





The project aims to develop a low cost, robust device which can detect and record both intermittent faults in wooden poles.

What is the project about?

The project aims to develop a low cost, robust device which can detect and record both intermittent and peak faults in wooden poles on the network. The faults targeted are those whose current flow is not continuous and is generally not present when an operative goes to site to make a measurement, which makes fault finding difficult: Examples of this include:

  • Fault passage indicator – Intermittent current flow causing protection systems to trigger due to weather changes (rain/condensation). These faults cause customer interruptions and are difficult to find once the weather changes.
  • Low level current flow due to ceramic insulator damage at the top of wooden poles.

How we’re doing it

The project will design and develop a laboratory prototype of the method and if successful, finalise the design and supporting information to enable further stages of development including field trials and preparation of the product for commercialisation.

The objectives and activities of the project are:

Stage 1: To develop and demonstrate a Laboratory prototype

  • Consult with DNOs on the sensitivity range required for the device
  • Select appropriate electrochemical cell chemistry and develop a laboratory demonstrator showing the appropriate sensitivity in something approximating the final plastic card format
  • Estimate the accuracy of the device and the key factors that limit resolution and accuracy
  • Provide initial costs estimates of a final device

Stage 2: Development of trial units and capture feedback on the design

  • Develop demonstrator and conduct initial testing
  • Produce 10 units for 3rd party testing
  • Review test data

Stage 3: To develop “large scale trial” units

  • Produce 200 devices for evaluation by DNOs

Stage 4: Commercialisation support for the product

  • Market analysis
  • Preparation for manufacturing

What makes it innovative

To create a method to identify fault current passage through poles is useful as it will reduce the area of inspection to small number of poles with indication of significant current flow.

What we’re learning

At the end of the project a product will have been produced that when affixed to a pole will give real time indicators of earth current leakage. This will inform distribution network operators (DNO) operatives as to the environment into which they are entering prior to undertaking the work on the pole. At the same time DNOs will have a facility whereby they can communicate with the general public through a process of education that should the indicator be illuminated it is clear at the outset that the pole has been or is hazardous and should not be touched but reported for assessment by the DNO.

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