Enter the drone: the application of drones in utilities

Jamie Brunton
by
on 04 October 2018

 

 

Here at Dootrix we’re fascinated by the art of possible and are always exploring the opportunities for technology to disrupt and drive positive change in our client’s businesses. In our recent posts, we’ve focused on innovation in the utilities sector, and we recognise that the potential is huge, not just in the customer space but also operationally.

We’re specialists in the design, development and activation of new software products – but what about hardware? The practical application of new and innovational technology isn’t limited to how a system works but also tools and machinery that enable the people in an organisation to perform the tasks they need to succeed.

We’ve looked at the reality of putting drone technology to use before so we know the potential for the use of drones in organisations is impressive, but we see two key opportunities in the utilities sector are really worth exploring:

Infrastructure Inspection

Every utilities business has physical infrastructure that they have to support and maintain, regardless of the sub-sector, be it water, power or otherwise. Utilities providers have distribution lines, water pipes, substations or solar farms that need to be running to the best of their ability for the business to achieve their ambitions.

In order to maintain this critical infrastructure, businesses need to perform regular inspections. Currently, organisations either use manned helicopters or more prominently: ground patrolling. Employees will inspect lines, or networks, looking for faults or possible defects and if there is something worth investigating, climb the tower or uncover the logger to inspect further. These tasks present risks, not only are they costly but they can be dangerous and employees have to use their own discretion to identify whether the infrastructure is safe and working effectively.

Enter the drone: when inspecting infrastructure drones could supplement and aid ground patrolling. By enabling employees to inspect lines, towers or other features by using the drone to take accurate photos and other data that inform the decision-making process.

Safety Surveying

A priority for all utilities businesses is safety. Ensuring that their infrastructure operates safely is pivotal to ensuring their success. Gas and water pipelines and power lines present a substantial risk of degradation or leakage. Currently, many organisations are having to investigate issues and inspect using the same ground patrolling process outlined above.

Enter the drone: when surveying drones can again be leveraged to support what is currently a people-driven process. Drones can be enhanced with a range of technologies including thermal imaging sensors which could readily be used to detect abnormalities in things like temperature that are key indicators of leakage.

Business Benefits

  • Automation & operational efficiency: by using technology to support people-driven processes businesses will be able to save time in ensuring their infrastructure is safe and performing positively. There are inherent cost savings here, by automating parts or all of the process will enable employees to focus on critical issues that impact performance. When drones themselves can become fully automated (flown without a pilot) organisations could benefit from greater precision, reduced risk of human error and further cost saving.
  • Data: by using the latest drone technology organisations can greatly improve the use of data across the business. The ability to capture higher quality data more frequently can supercharge operations with sound decision making. Drones can capture this data more safely, supporting employees in the field and reducing the risk in both inspection and surveying.

Ok, it’s true we’re a fan of drones, but we’re excited about exploring and applying innovative technology that we know can be disruptive for businesses in the utilities sector.

Want to explore how innovation can drive positive change in utilities? Watch this space for news about our upcoming whitepaper, Utilities 4.0. 

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