Developed by Siemens Energy, the system collects all the necessary data during the flight, which can later be evaluated with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and analysed by other software tools.
In the near future, this kind of holistic inspection of overhead power lines can also be performed with large drones.
Helicopters and AI
For the inspection, Siemens Energy attaches SIEAERO’s multi-sensor system to the underside of a helicopter.
Equipped with 19 cameras and 3D laser scanning sensors, Siemens touts the system’s capability to captures all relevant inspection data in a single flight over the power line, resulting in up to 12,000 images and detailed 3D data per kilometre of power line.
The SIEAERO’s software can evaluate the images in just a few hours. Its AI was previously trained with over two million images of European and North American grids to automatically detect faults in the images. This allows potential risks like trees growing too close to the line to be detected earlier.
During the flights, the surface temperature of the individual components is also measured. The digital data obtained provides a precise and detailed overview of the condition of the operating equipment. It can also be combined with existing data from the grid for other evaluations.
“The use of artificial intelligence is an important advance in the inspection of power lines. The high data quality makes us more precise and more cost-efficient, and it also allows us to conduct the inspection more safely,” stated Milen Ramos Subires, vice president transmission service at Siemens Energy.
“With conventional measurement and inspection techniques, the lines would have to be flown over several times to get the same results. Each flight saved over the distance of 4,000 kilometres saves 74 tons of CO2 emissions”, added Subires.
From data mountain to digital twin
Every kilometre of line flown generates 300GB of data.
According to Siemens, the SIEAERO system uses this data to create a digital twin, a highly accurate image of network infrastructure being inspected, including poles, lines, terrain and vegetation.
With the digital twin, the system aims to enable network operators to simulate extreme events like a tree falling on a line and causing it to fail and take appropriate preventive measures.
Up to 1.8 million kilometres of power lines run through the German energy infrastructure, ensuring that electricity reaches every socket.
The high-voltage lines in the transmission grid ensure large amounts of electricity can first be transported quickly over long distances to conurbations, and then the electricity can be distributed to consumers via the lower-voltage networks.
According to Siemens Energy, regular checks by grid operators of the high-voltage lines – which in Germany extend over some 37,000km– are essential to ensuring an uninterrupted supply of electricity.