A new automated commercial drone service for electric utilities

Sharper Shape Inc. has announced this week that their new Automatic Detail Inspection (ADI) service has successfully completed field trials and is now available for immediate commercial use by electric utilities. The ADI service is available as a complete end-to-end inspection package, or companies can use their own aircraft and personnel, utilizing Sharper Shape’s ADI “Drone Software as A Service™” technologies to maximize the efficiency of in-house unmanned aerial operations.

The company expects their Automatic Detailed Inspection service to be rapidly adopted by major US as well as international utilities due to system’s ability to largely automate the entire process ranging from using drones for close inspection of critical infrastructure components up to defect recognition.

Sharper Shape’s Automatic Detailed Inspection service takes full advantage of the outstanding capabilities of the current generation of small commercial unmanned aircraft. To begin the process, Sharper Shape’s ADI Flight Planner software automatically creates accurate 3D models of powerlines using LiDAR data of the system. The ADI Flight Planner software uses this geospatial data to create optimized routes for automatically inspecting utility assets.

High-performance DJI commercial drones autonomously follow these automatically created flight paths to capture images of insulators, wire connections and other critical components at close range and from multiple angles. Finally, these images are uploaded under software control to the Sharper Shape cloud-based Inspector application. This purpose-built application provides an ideal platform for utility personnel to review field data, and postflight analysis is further accelerated with several artificial intelligence tools.

“Our new ADI service really minimizes the effort required to capture all the data needed to completely analyze the health of a utility system and to target the problem areas,” says Paul Frey, Sharper Shape’s VP of sales. “UAS field crews can get a lot more done each day, with much more predictable and repeatable results.”

According to Ilkka Hiidenheimo, Sharper Shape’s CEO:

“With our new ADI service, not only are we automating the drone field operations, but we are also providing a complete post-flight software environment for performing intelligent computer-assisted analysis of the massive amount of data captured during each flight.”

Hiidenheimo provided insight into the future:

“After the uplift of the beyond visual line of sight drone based flying regulation in the US we will be able to maximize the potential of the service, the same way we already do in Finland.”

Advantages of ADI vs. traditional inspections done by helicopters or by foot patrol

  • Increased safety by keeping the pilots and crew on the ground
  • In comparison to helicopter data acquisition higher quality data and data from below the assets
  • A much lower price point
  • More environmentally friendly

Advantages of ADI vs. traditional manually flown drone utility inspections include:

  • Inspection time is reduced from 10-20 minutes per structure for manual flight control to 1-2 minutes using ADI.
  • ADI delivers more repeatable and higher quality inspection results
  • Far less stress is put on ADI field crews, resulting in reduced mental & physical fatigue
  • ADI minimizes risk – even less skilled pilots can safely produce top quality inspection work
  • All ADI data is automatically uploaded to the Sharper Inspector software platform, which provides an optimized environment for manual examination of inspection data, as well as providing an environment for automating certain inspection tasks through intelligent software plug-ins

Even though Sharper Shape’s ADI service is initially being targeted for use in the electric transmission and distribution markets, the company is working on introducing the applications into a much wider range of industrial inspection applications.

“There really is no reason our automatic flight operations and inspection software can’t be equally effective when working on cell phone towers, wind turbines, or many other critical industrial assets,” says Sharper Shape’s Hiidenheimo.

sharpershape.com