HomeAutonomous VehiclesSiemens intros “game-changing” drone sensor system for power-line inspections

Siemens intros “game-changing” drone sensor system for power-line inspections

Siemens has unveiled a new drone-mounted multi-sensor system running artificial intelligence and machine learning for overhead power-line inspections.

Combining a number of sensors and cameras, the new system enables power utilities to run checks on power lines with high-performance cameras and long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), providing imaging beyond the visual line-of-sight, and affording a high payload capacity.

The system, called SIEAERO (a conflation of Siemens and ‘aero’), will improve the accuracy and lower the costs of power line checks for transmission system operators (TSOs), it said.

Described as a new “service approach”, the German company said at European Utility Week 2018 in Vienna, in Austria, the sensor system can record all the data required for a complete inspection at once.

The service is fully automated, and faster and more precise than traditional checks, by humans in helicopters.

Siemens called it a “game-changer” for the billion-euro power line inspection market. The sensor and analytics will be available as-a-service from Siemens from March 2019, for use with manned helicopters.

It will become available with UAVs when regulations change around their operation beyond visual line of sight. At present, most countries do not permit UAV flights out of sight.

Data generated during flights is handled by Siemens’ data analytics software, which utilises artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools to store, manage and analyse data gathered from all sensors in a single platform.

Siemens has worked with German and Austrian TSOs TenneT and APG on the project since 2016. Both TSOs have tested the SIEAERO service.

It has also engaged with Vienna-based Schiebel Group on the camera-drone technology, in the shape of the Austrian firm’s CAMCOPTER S-100 UAVs. The S-100 has a flight distance up to 200 km, and a sensor load capacity of 50 kg.

Lufthansa Aerial Services is also involved, for operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Lufthansa will perform the SIEAERO inspection flights globally.

Mirko Düsel, chief executive of transmission solutions for the company’s  energy management division, commented: “Everything, from planning and performing inspection flights, managing and analysing the data to report generation and data archiving, is more cost-efficient.”

There are over 200,000 kilometres of overhead power lines in North America and Europe, serving households and industries. Inspection is required to avoid failures. TSOs inspect power lines with helicopters at least once a year, said Siemens.

Imaging of the complete power line network, rendered as digital twins, along with the findings and results from inspections, can be integrated into customers’ existing asset management systems for trend monitoring and preventive maintenance.

Siemens said SIEAERO reduces the time for flight execution and data analysis from weeks, and even months, to a few days.

It is also more accurate than other camera inspection systems. SIEAERO uses five cameras with 100 megapixels each. Competitors are typically working with one or two cameras and a lower resolution, said Siemens.

Its 3D LIDAR sensors offer resolution of 120 dots per square-metre, compared with the industry standard of 30 dots per square metre.

The system also uses infrared and corona sensors.

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