Redefining Utility Inspections With Drones

March 10, 2021

Utility companies oversee massive critical infrastructure networks, consisting of transmission towers, distribution poles, and substations that are all connected by power lines.  In the past, inspecting these critical assets that could span hundreds of miles was both expensive and time-consuming. 

Now, utility companies are leveraging drone technology to quickly and efficiently collect visual data and utilize their personnel more efficiently.  Drones are increasingly more adopted for use by operators seeking streamlined operations with reduced risk, lower expenses, and scalable benefits.

Keeping Inspectors Safe

This type of remote inspection using drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), supports stable power grid performance while ensuring the safety of workers.  For instance, drones keep inspectors safely on the ground, away from hazardous situations where the risk of exposure to gasses, heights, or faulty lines can be fatal.

Drones also replace manual utility asset inspections at dangerous heights or difficult to access locations.  In remote areas, rough terrain can make walking or driving very slow and difficult.  Inspectors no longer need to rely on hand held cameras or climb poles, use bucket trucks, or deploy costly helicopters (average $4,000 per day) to capture necessary data. 

Inspect and Maintain

The maintenance of critical infrastructure, especially reliable electricity, have proven even more vital during the recent pandemic. Utilities must be operational and stable to support essential services ranging from hospitals to grocery stores all across the globe. 

Drones equipped with advanced sensors and imaging technology allow inspectors to remotely perform a large variety of tasks, including detailed inspection of power lines and components, analyzing vegetation encroachment, and digitizing asset information. Predictive analytics layered onto drone data identifies infrastructure issues that need to be fixed so it never leads to catastrophic failures in the future.

Given the relatively low cost of drone inspections, many companies have increased their cadence of inspections. With more frequent inspections, utility providers improve maintenance efficiencies, optimize equipment purchasing and crew scheduling, and ultimately reduce costs. 

Upgrading to Auterion

For a utility company that is beginning to develop its drone program or is evaluating their existing UAS fleets for scalability, choosing an open source ecosystem is more important than ever. With a worldwide community supporting a code base, output is thoroughly reviewed and vetted. Consistent progress and improvements are achieved far more quickly than with proprietary software due to the collaborative and growing nature of an open ecosystem.

Adopting or upgrading to open source allows organizations to be free from the constraints of any single company’s product development decisions. Having access to abundant choices for airframe, sensors, etc. provides flexibility and assurance that critical operations are never again threatened to come to a grinding halt due to one single manufacturer’s geopolitical issues, leadership changes, manufacturing delays, or financial woes.

Every investment made into a solution powered by Auterion means that the training and equipment you obtain today can be effortlessly translated into your future workflow – even if you add different or newer airframes along the way. That’s the beauty of an open source ecosystem, endless choices supported by the same reliable foundation that is bigger than any one manufacturer or product. 

To learn more about drones in utilities and how Auterion’s open source approach is the key to robust and scalable drone fleets, get in touch.