Tuesday, 26 Mar 2019

NYPA’s Inspection Drone Program: Changing the Pace of the Electrical Industry

inspection drone

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones have garnered interest in the electrical industry for their potential to increase inspection safety and responsiveness, as well as reduce the costs and duration of these procedures. The APPA’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Development (DEED) Program, in particular, has a strong orientation towards the development of inspection drones for electrical systems management. For this goal, APPA handed over a $125,000 grant to the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

NYPA’s Strategic Drone Program for Safe, Efficient, and Cost-effective Inspection

New York’s public utility organization aims to research on light detection and ranging authority (LiDAR) technology and integrate the developments into their existing inspection drone program. The enhancement of its UAS utilization program is helping NYPA reach its goal of becoming the first end-to-end digitized utility. Currently, they are using drones to digitize their inspection procedures and collect precise data for future use.  

NYPA President and CEO, Gil Quiniones, also highlights how this development moves the electrical industry forward. Drones have the potential to transform the level of efficiency and cost-effectiveness of inspection operations. Moreover, the improvements are expected to benefit all stakeholders including suppliers, electrical workers, corporate consumers, and retail end users.

Optimizing Drone Capabilities with LiDAR Technology

The DEED grant will be used to finance NYPA’s year-long pilot research into the optimal combination of UAS and LiDAR technologies. The developmental project will focus on integrating LiDAR into small inspection drones for vegetation monitoring and maintenance along New York transmission lines.

The R&D team is focused on maximizing detection and ranging capabilities while maintaining the prototype within the 55-pound threshold for “small” drones. The demands of this goal are technically quite a stretch, but just one successful design will change the way utilities provide service to the public.

Inspection Drones in the Electrical Industry

Drone operations are improving the efficacy of utility and electrical sectors in unprecedented ways. Drones help reduce hazards and costs while optimizing the inspection and maintenance of electrical transmission lines.

Reduced Inspection Hazards

The use of drones improves the responsiveness of inspection procedures and shortens the inspection cycle. Less time also lessens the occurrence of untoward incidents.

More importantly, drones eliminate the need for personal inspection around charged equipment, increasing the overall safety of employees and contractors.

Optimized and Cost-Effectiveness Operations

By the end of the LiDAR UAS development project, NYPA aims to take fuller control o fits inspection processes. Unlike its current capacities, the utility provider will also be able to conduct inspections more frequently depending on the need. Both of these additional capabilities are estimated to reduce the overall cost of inspection and create a more flexible and reliable system maintenance process.

What It Means to the Electrical Industry

While the NYPA pilot development program will first benefit the state, the improvements will inevitably trickle out into the power authorities of other states. Overall, the project leads the evolution of this country’s energy system towards a more resilient energy system. For players in the electrical industry, in particular, the inspection drone development project signals a new industry phase that is full of challenges and opportunities. If you are an electrical company, now is the time to prepare for both.