Promising results from drone-based powerline inspections in Norway
In many regions of Norway, access to powerlines is difficult, so helicopters are often deployed to inspect the grid. But power utilities are increasingly becoming aware of the potential of drone-based inspections as a cost-effective and powerful method of obtaining data about the condition of the grid – especially when the software to store, share and analyse the images already exists. Skånevik Ølen Kraftlag is one of the first power suppliers to test the concept in Norway along with drone operators Funtek – and the results are looking good!
Funtek is specialized in infrastructure inspections
Funtek is a Norwegian drone operating company, offering drone-based inspections of powerlines, wind turbines and other critical infrastructure. To store and analyse the vast amounts of data generated by drone inspections, Funtek are using software developed by Scopito, a Danish specialist IT developer focusing on making infrastructure inspections much more effective in terms of time and cost.
Torstein Funderud, co-owner and founder of Funtek, explains: “We have been building and flying drones for nearly a decade, and with the fast-evolving technology development in this segment it became clear for us that this equipment can be applied to industrial inspections.
We started out doing small test inspections and developing procedures and equipment specifically for this, and after some time we needed more specific input from the potential client base to further develop the concept. So I contacted our local power utility Skånevik Ølen Kraftlag and proposed the idea of doing test runs on their power lines, and they accepted.
We chose two lines with varied topography, to test the limitations of both the inspection procedures and the actual limitations of the equipment. And we decided to use Scopito’s software to store and tag all the many images that come from a single inspection run.”
Results indicate cheaper, more efficient power line inspections
Skånevik Ølen Kraftlag’s grid manager Jan Erik Fedje is happy with the results from the test runs:
“We have carried out two test runs using drones to inspect power lines running along the fjords and in the mountains; so, in challenging topographies. Although we have not yet analysed the data in great detail, we think that drone inspections and the software solution connected to them are really promising as an alternative to helicopter inspections – we also expect to find that using drones is much cheaper and more flexible than conventional inspection runs.”
Skånevik Ølen Kraftlag has also called upon Funtek to carry out inspections to detect and identify specific faults on the grid, when helicopters could not take off due to high winds. “Funtek responded and found the fault very quickly with their drone services, so we will definitely turn to this solution again in the future,” says Jan Erik Fedje.
Full software integration with Powel
Funtek is working closely with their own software developers and suppliers Powel and Scopito to make sure inspection data in Scopito integrates well with the customers’ existing Powel platform. Powel’s solutions are currently being used by both Danish and Norwegian utility companies to manage powerlines and powerline infrastructure.
“Scopito’s software is just perfect for this type for work,” Torstein Funderud says. “Before I found it, I had ideas of developing a system like it for our own use – but Scopito just does the job brilliantly. What’s more, when we can cross-reference our data with the information in Powel’s power grid management system and present and analyse it in Scopito, you have a complete solution.”
“In Powel’s power grid management system the clients can easily export GPS and name information for the lines they want to do inspection on. We merge this information with the captured inspection data so that when the customer gets the result of the inspection there is a direct correlation to their own maintenance system. This means that if the customers want inspection data for a mast in their system, they can simply type in their own mast “name” or identifier in Scopito and the images for that specific mast will appear.
We also use the data from Powel’s power grid management system to plan our drone inspections, and ensure that when an inspection job is done we do actually have data from all of the masts on that line – and no data is missing. This adds confidence since we can actually verify that the inspection that is carried out is complete.
In practical terms, this means that the utility company can save enormous amounts of money normally spent on helicopter-based inspections, and downtime and costly repairs can be foreseen – or entirely avoided – with extreme precision.
Exciting possibilities when integrating Scopito with Powel software
For utility companies already using the many different software solutions developed by Powel, the possibility of integrating Scopito imaging with Powel opens up a range of new possibilities.
Kjetil Storset is Executive Vice President at Powel AS and is in charge of Powel’s development of smart infrastructure solutions. He sees great potential for power companies and infrastructure owners in combining Scopito’s imaging software with Powel’s management solutions:
“When operators can integrate the data in Powel’s software with the image management in Scopito, the possibilities really open up. In our software, utility companies can have specific data on every single mast in the power grid, every single insulator and every other piece of equipment in the critical infrastructure. The Scopito software can share and visualize every single image taken, so that we have full knowledge of the exact position, altitude, time etc. of each image. Pair this with the data stored in our systems, and the utility company can now pinpoint the condition of every single mast and find the information in a matter of minutes.”
For us at Scopito, the test flights and the license demonstrate that our software solution is capable of handling very large amounts of image data and GPS data coming in from the UAVs, and that even autonomous drones can easily be handled with our software.