Unmanned aerial vehicle inspects powerlines

Finnish high-tech company Sharper Shape has executed unique test flights on September 25, 2014, near Joensuu, in Eastern Finland. For the first time in the world an unmanned Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) took off to inspect local power lines with a full set of sensors.

Our robotic copter is equipped with a laser scanner, cameras and aviation safety systems. The laser scanner maps the terrain and forms an accurate 3D model of the components of the power network, as well as of the surrounding buildings, forest and vegetation.

Sharper Shape has developed a technology, which automatically analyses laser scanning data and identifies the need for corrective actions in the field.

Our sharp minded RPAS collects the same information that earlier required the use of a full-size manned helicopter. Thanks to our application, the power line inspections can be done more easily, faster and more cost-efficiently in the future”, explains Tero Heinonen, the founder of Sharper Shape.

The test flights are part of a research project conducted with the Electricity Research Pool at Finnish Energy Industries.

The aim of the test flights was to show that the new methods meet the technical and operative requirements of inspections. The information collected by an RPAS helps power companies to direct their maintenance and repair work to areas that are critical in terms of reliable and secure power distribution. For a power company this means better customer service and increased cost-efficiency.

Especially in case of major disruptions caused by storms it is important to get accurate and fast information from the area. With the help of an RPAS, power companies are able to restore the electricity back to their customers much sooner than before.

Sharper Shape partners with the world’s leading laser scanning research organization lead by Professor Juha Hyyppä, with more than 30 PhDs working tightly together in the area of laser scanning and remote sensing.

In the field of aviation, all operations must be absolutely safe and approved by the aviation authorities. Sharper Shape has an on-going dialogue with Trafi, the civil aviation regulatory authority in Finland. The test flights are also to provide information for Trafi, on the benefits and safety factors related to RPAS operations.

We are delighted by the positive approach the aviation authority has taken to the development of the industry here in Finland. We share the same view: unmanned aviation is the new era of aviation”, Tero Heinonen comments.