Technology accelerated faster than ever in 2020, and the market for unmanned aerial vehicles is no exception. One area where there have been significant gains is powerline inspections. Traditionally a dangerous and costly undertaking, inspections have been revolutionized by long-range drone technology. Leading UAV solutions offer a stable platform with multiple payload capabilities for high-resolution cameras and sensors to provide automatic defect recognition while lowering carbon emissions and reducing operational risks of manned aircraft.
In that spirit, SwissDrones is excited to announce its successful completion of a recent automated powerline inspection challenge. Although several companies participated in the challenge, SwissDrones reached the final stage of the project with actual flights on site and successfully delivered the requested results.
The challenge was issued by French powerline company RTE. Unmanned aerial service and technology providers were asked to produce high-resolution images of a 1-2 km stretch of a power line between Eguzon and Rueyres. Afterward, those pictures were analyzed using RTE’s automatic inspection algorithms. The purpose was to assess the capabilities of drone manufacturers and service providers concerning automated, high-end inspections. Unbeknownst to participants, a strand of cable was cut on a specific part of the cable. Only RTE knew where the cut was, or that it existed at all. To complete the challenge, the cut cable had to be visible in images collected by the drone in a continuous fly-by.
For the challenge, SwissDrones used a VTOL helicopter drone with long autonomy and multiple high-resolution sensors. The unmanned helicopter carried one 150 mp camera, two 100 mp cameras and two thermal cameras. It followed a pre-programmed, autonomous flight plan.
The successful flight was the result of collaboration between SwissDrones, Phase One, GGS, CNER-STH Research and Development, GMR Massif Central Ouest, and the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC).
SwissDrones produces Swiss quality, unmanned helicopters with high payload capacity and long-range autonomy for beyond visual line of sight missions. The technology is used in inspections, surveillance, and search & rescue, and provides a low-risk, cost-effective alternative to manned aircraft with significantly reduced CO2 emissions.