Transmission and Distribution Network Operators require frequent inspections to manage and maintain their network assets to regulation standard. Scottish Power Energy have identified the need to investigate how drones (UAVs) can open up new faster and less expensive routes to perform such inspections. Developing automatic analysis capability for these inspections has a clear potential cost benefit and by reducing the exposure of technical staff to high voltage systems, an important health and safety benefit.
To design and develop a camera mount and computer system which can be carried by commercial quadcopter UAVs with the capability to perform real-time thermal and visual imagery inspection.
- PNDC worked with EagleiSystems to produce a prototype sensor package which contained a low-cost lightweight computer with a visual camera and a Long-wave Infrared thermal camera.
- The camera system captured HD visual images and thermal images of network assets, and the on-board computer system synchronises and combines the images to produce visual/ thermal composite images which can demonstrate real-time processing of images which will enable future automatic condition monitoring and diagnosis.
PNDCs prototype sensor package flew with an EagleiSystems quadcopter on a number of trials close to low voltage lines and transmission lines, demonstrating safe and controlled flying near energised network assets. The composite real-time imaging was tested successfully, and the platform will serve as a development step for future projects which will address the important question of automatic asset recognition, condition assessment and diagnosis.