Monday 31 March 2014

Canine cuts out power failures

Canine cuts out power failures

A rescue dog with unusual powers could change the way energy companies detect power cuts.

Buzz the chocolate Labrador has an uncanny ability to sense electromagnetic radiation surges and has been trained to detect breakages in power cabling paving the way for a whole new breed of electrical engineer. The eight year old has been helping researchers at the Mendax Corporation based near Royal Wootton Bassett as they try and find new ways of harnessing his power into a warning system.

Alexandra Hill one of the research team working with Buzz told ELN his abilities are probably not unique: "We know plenty of animals such as pigeons, other birds and marine mammals can detect electromagnetism and often use it to navigate.

"We also know dogs can somehow detect epileptic attacks and other conditions before they happen and have been trained to become alert dogs. It's quite likely Buzz has an ability that other dogs also posess and it's simply a question of conditioning them to respond."

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Buzz's ability was probably one of the reasons he was abandoned and ended up at a rescue shelter.

Miss Hill added: "Buzz was annoying his previous owners by constantly barking at the TV and at plugpoints and chewing at cables. The partner of one of our scientists worked at the shelter and told him about Buzz. He went to see Buzz and was convinced he had a special gift so adopted him.

"In the lab we investigated further and after tests where we put a scanner on his skull, we saw Buzz would react when he sensed a surge in electromagnetism."

Mendax has now put Buzz into action and he goes out on patrol sniffing out power surges.  Once he senses something he sits down or paws at the area and starts barking. In tests he has detected breaks in power cables under ground to a depth of three metres. Incredibly he has a 87% accuracy rating.Copyright: ELN

"Obviously you can't just dig up the road if a dog barks but Buzz is a very cheap, fast and easy way to cover a vast amount of ground and give an early warning. We can then send an engineer along with the detection equipment and scanners to check if the break is genuine or not. We believe Buzz can save thousands of pounds for network companies as he can save wasting time and money on looking for breaks in cables," said Miss Hill.

Buzz's abilities are still being tested but some power companies (Mendax would not confirm which) have reportedly expressed an interest in using his sniffing services.

Mendax is certain Buzz is not alone and believe there could be a whole host of dogs out there with this gift, who with a little help, could be trained into providing a new early warning system in the fight against outages.

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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