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Power line maintenance inspection builds around real time signal processing and mobile robotics techniques. The authors show how to take advantage of hardware and software dedicated to inspection to improve the process. Hardware solutions are first developed on the ground and later transferred to airborne systems when airworthiness compliance is verified. Over-head line tracking is based on a two stage procedure: a coarse LiDAR tracking followed by a refined video tracking. Automatic tracking allows for surveys to be carried autonomously while inspectors focus on higher level issues. Real time is essential to assist the airborne inspection crew and to improve safety. Investigation of helicopter accidents directed the research towards practical tools that minimise inspection risk. Also, real time is an effective feature to build confidence in the robotics system, improve human efficiency and reciprocally, to improve the robotics with human know-how.