Milan, April 3 - Scientists in Italy are developing a robotic monkey able to climb power lines like vines in the jungle and locate the source of outages. Described as an anti-blackout tightrope walker, the device is called Ilena, an Italian acronym for National Power Line Inspector, and it will soon become autonomous, scientists at the RSE research laboratory in Brugherio, north of Milan, said Wednesday. Ilena is made of stainless steel and aluminum and weighs 30 kilos. It has two mechanical arms, each with two motorized wheels allowing it to slide across electric cables at a speed of 800 meters per hour. "Just like a monkey swinging from vines, Ilena can hang on with a single arm while the other reaches out over whatever is blocking the line," said Fiorenzo Mazzarella, the mastermind behind the robot. "Thanks to four micro-cameras and numerous sensors, it can transmit valuable information back to operators on the ground". For now, the device is operated by remote control, but developers say it will soon be completely autonomous. "The ultimate goal is to create an autonomous robot, which can spend a long time hanging onto the lines, conveying all the information to a single operations center," said Mazzarella.
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