On pawtrol: Sparky the Robodog enhances safety at UK’s largest renewable power station

Drax Power Station, Britain’s single-largest renewable power generator, has a new four-legged friend to help sniff out hazards to keep people safe. Sparky, a state-of-the-art robotic dog, has joined the plant and will carry out inspections and capture critical data on machinery.

The robodog has joined Drax’s Condition Based Maintenance team to spot potential failures on the plant before they happen. The bright yellow dog is fitted with a camera which enables it to conduct critical visual and thermal inspections on equipment such as hot boilers while its human controllers are kept safe away from the equipment.

As Sparky gets familiar with the plant, he will be programmed to follow tailored routes around the site. This will enable him to operate autonomously, enhancing efficiency even further.

Ensuring the safety, health, and wellbeing of people on site is the company’s top priority. Drax’s investment in Sparky is part of a wider drive to improve safety standards across the company’s global operations.

Richard Barber, Maintenance Systems Lead Engineer, said: “A robotic dog might not be what you have in mind when you think about safety, but Sparky is a real game changer for us. The technology enables our team to collect better information about our equipment, while also keeping our colleagues out of harm’s way.

“Its optical panoramic camera allows us to zoom in-depth on equipment and it is fitted with a thermal infrared camera, which means we can see any hot spot or unusual thermal anomalies on the machinery. We want to prevent faults from happening, not simply repair them when they occur. With Sparky on patrol at the power station, we will be able to do just that.”

Sparky will have plenty of room to roam around, with Drax Power Station being one of the country’s largest industrial sites. The plant near Selby has four operational power generating units, each as high as a 15-storey office block, a main chimney nearly as tall as the London Shard, and more than 1,800 miles of steel tubing, enough to stretch from John O’Groats to Land’s End and back again.

The four-legged friend is the brainchild of Boston Dynamics, an American engineering and robotics design company which started as a spin-off from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Sparky is part of the Spot pedigree of robodogs from the firm.


Media contacts:

Aidan Kerr
Senior Media Manager
E:   [email protected]
T: 07849090368

About Drax

Drax Group’s purpose is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future and in 2019 announced a world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology.

Drax’s around 3,000 employees operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production and supply to third parties. For more information visit www.drax.com

Power generation:

Drax owns and operates a portfolio of renewable electricity generation assets in England and Scotland. The assets include the UK’s largest power station, based at Selby, North Yorkshire, which supplies five percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Having converted Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal it has become the UK’s biggest renewable power generator and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe. It is also where Drax is piloting the groundbreaking negative emissions technology BECCS within its CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage) Incubation Area.

Its pumped storage, hydro and energy from waste assets in Scotland include Cruachan Power Station – a flexible pumped storage facility within the hollowed-out mountain Ben Cruachan.

The Group also aims to build on its BECCS innovation at Drax Power Station with a target to deliver 4 million tonnes of negative CO2 emissions each year from new-build BECCS outside of the UK by 2030 and is currently developing models for North American and European markets.

Pellet production and supply:

The Group has 19 operational pellet plants and developments with nameplate production capacity of around 5 million tonnes a year.

Drax is targeting 8 million tonnes of production capacity by 2030, which will require the development of over 3 million tonnes of new biomass pellet production capacity. The pellets are produced using materials sourced from sustainably managed working forests and are supplied to third party customers in Europe and Asia for the generation of renewable power.

Drax’s pellet plants supply biomass used at its own power station in North Yorkshire, England to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK’s homes and businesses, and also to customers in Europe and Asia.


Drax supplies renewable electricity to UK businesses, offering a range of energy-related services including energy optimisation, as well as electric vehicle strategy and management.

To find out more go to the website www.energy.drax.com