School of Engineering


Mr Shaun Barnett studied power line robots to earn his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree.

Engineering Masters Fine Tunes Power Line Robots

‘Focus on the steps that you take on your journey, rather than what looms ahead,’ shared Mr Shaun Barnett who received his MSc degree in Electrical Engineering cum laude. His study was titled, Electromagnetic Interference Mitigation in a High Voltage Power Line Inspection Robot.

‘High voltage engineering and robotics are both exciting and interesting topics and I jumped at the opportunity presented by an overlap between them,’ said Barnett. ‘I wanted to study Electrical Engineering at an internationally accredited university, and UKZN’s School of Engineering continues to maintain a top 200 ranking worldwide.’

Inspection of high voltage power lines is an expensive and dangerous undertaking. Automating the task through the use of robotics addresses these issues while creating opportunities for improved accuracy and more comprehensive inspection.

‘Shaun was an independent worker and managed to complete a topic that included aspects of high voltage and electronic engineering,’ said his supervisor, Dr Andrew Swanson.

Swanson said that Barnett’s work had resulted in a meaningful output that will be important to the further development of the power line inspection robot.

Barnett is currently presenting a paper at the International Symposium on High Voltage Engineering in Budapest, Hungary. This symposium is a forum for global engineers, researchers and scientists to present their research and share ideas, knowledge and expertise on high voltage engineering.

‘During my research I got to meet some great minds that showed me that in order to better oneself, one should strive never to be the smartest person in the room. It also showed me that opportunity is everywhere, we just need to learn to recognise it. During the course of my studies, I was certified as a professional energy manager, did numerous other educational courses, moved twice and got married. It was quite a ride,’ said Barnett.

Asked about his recipe for success, Barnett said: ‘I do not think that these things are a matter of “can” or “cannot”, but rather a matter of weighing why it must be done against what needs to be sacrificed in order to do it.’

Words: Christian Ishimwe

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan