Regular and effective power line inspection is essential for grid security. Traditional power line inspection methods had a number of challenges as they were time-consuming processes, had low inspection efficiency and posed risk for workers. Also in rural areas, the inspection process can get excruciatingly slow due to rough terrain.
Earlier most companies used helicopter-based inspections. But they come with their own set of challenges: they were expensive, noisy and ecologically unsustainable.
Drones are portable, easy to deploy and easy to use in difficult to reach locations. Using drones can cut down cost from 3 lakhs to about 15 thousand for a single transmission tower inspection, and simultaneously giving more accurate data.
The primary reasons why drones are a better choice than a person or a helicopter:
1. Safety: If a drone crashes, the loss will be of money, not in terms of life.
2. Speed: They can perform the job quicker than any human. The process becomes faster when you automate the process.
3. Data accuracy: drones combined with certain software can collect data more effectively by helping us make the best possible flight path.
4. Cost: using a helicopter or training a human for the inspection process is very expensive. Also taking into account the hours required to do the inspection. Drones are far more cost-effective.
Drones considerably reduce manual work by automating inspections. Let’s see how it’s done.
1. Drone with an airborne LIDAR is used to plot a point cloud model for the whole transmission line.
2. After the 3D model is created, a 3D flight plan is generated. The plan includes flying route, hover points and shooting angles. Using the detailed cloud model drone can reach every corner without crashing.
3. The drone flies following the flight path and the whole process is done automatically.
4. After the inspection the collected data is assessed for defect analysis and report generation.
Automated procedures help the drone to maintain a safe distance from the power line while increasing data accuracy. Most of the time, the towers can remain functional during the inspection.
Drones are being widely deployed for power line inspections considering the cost, ease of use and as a safe alternative to dangerous work.