Sharper Shape, a supplier of drone (UAV) based automated asset inspection and maintenance planning services demonstrated drones with advanced sensors in public test flights. The flights are part of a completed research project conducted with the Electricity Research Pool at Finnish Energy Industries.

The robotic copter is equipped with a laser scanner, cameras and aviation safety systems and has capability for long distance BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) inspection flights. 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.

The aim of the study was to demonstrate the technical viability and cost-efficiency of drone based inspections to the whole industry. Drones enable collecting the needed data for identifying and mitigating risks in power distribution in advance.

The public test flights were conducted with the presence of independent energy sector analyst Jouko Tervo (Reneco Consulting Ltd) and several utilities as observers to the study. According to the report of the study, drones are very efficient and an economic method to make inspection flights for power network maintenance purposes. The test team has estimated 50% reductions in aerial inspection costs are achievable using drones. Some further technical and regulatory development is still needed to enable fast and easy regular operations.

“Our sharp minded drones collect 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.