Skip to content

Drones and Robots

  • by

Power utilities are exploring robotics and UAVs to figure out the capabilities of theirs, use cases and also business situations.

Permit me the appealing headline, but we need to clarify: this op ed concentrates on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aerial systems (UASs), robotics and associated information management issues. UAVs are an element of UASs, as the second phrase reflects UAVs’ reliance on a communications & ground based pilots link (hence systems). The utility business generally stays away from using “drone” due to the negative connotations of its as something of war or maybe surveillance. “Robotics” refers to smart devices which substitute for humans in executing hard, repetitive or dangerous jobs. Both technologies provide utilities different abilities for value development, while posing data management challenges along with opportunities.

Presently, energy utilities are exploring robotics and UAVs to figure out the capabilities of theirs, use cases and also business situations. UAVs seem to be good at asset inspection and damage assessment, especially for high voltage transmission lines with adequate rights-of-way. Robotics are a promising technology for live line transmission system inspections as well as underwater inspections of and fixes to hydroelectric dam turbines. Both equipment and the data of theirs are able to inform asset management programs, outage management systems and geographic info systems, to name a couple of recognized benefits. Ultimately, UAVs and robotics are merely tools which accomplish essential business goals: improved reliability, resiliency and client satisfaction.

UAVs and robotics generate numerous kinds of nonoperational details, which includes imagery from video and also still photography, PhoDAR, LiDAR, chemical and infrared sensors. Power utilities are experts at managing functional details, however have to completely exploit nonoperational data from smart gadgets and brand new energy sources like robotics and UAVs. New nonoperational data sources have to be incorporated into current energy systems as seamlessly as you possibly can and also made available to other authorized personnel who could produce value from them.

“Holistic data management” describes an approach which is determined by cooperation between operations technology (OT) and info technology (IT) to generate an info and communications technology (ICT) foundation which embraces available standards and architectures and also ensures interoperability and forwards and backwards compatibility between devices, databases and networks. Most functional and business units have to work in concert to map all sensors along with other information sources to end users who could create value from that information. It provides a “data mart” which drives out key details and resulting actionable intelligence or perhaps makes data available on demand.

The creation of UAVs and robotics underscores the demand for holistic data management and also the ICT foundation to allow for it. Alternative data management and the technology foundation of its will reduce time-to-value in the adoption of robotics and UAVs and help create good business cases for the use of theirs by widening the circle of end users who could produce value from resulting data.

Meanwhile, UAV and robotics vendors might be moving faster compared to the energy industry is able to keep up, extending the offerings of theirs to value added services like data evaluation. Without an extensive survey of the industry it is not easy to characterize the number of vendors are utilizing open source architectures and standards based data protocols. But when the energy utility industry’s historical past is any guide, the market might effectively start with an assortment of proprietary solutions that fragment the marketplace and retard the adoption curve.

In response, I would recommend the electrical power market like an entire must acquire consensus on solutions, requirements and policies for UAVs and robotics that offer vendors with clarity on meeting power business requirements. This will stay away from proprietary solutions which, as in days gone by, eventually threaten to undercut investments, leave stranded assets and gradual adoption of essential solutions.

I notice room for optimism. Utilities are sharing the experiences of theirs in seminars and publications. The top business consortia – EPRI, EEI, IEEE societies, IEEE Power & Energy Society complex and coordinating committees – are examining best practices, industry offerings and also automated image analysis, along with other activities. Efforts are afoot on supporting policies and standards.

The future generally arrives faster than expected. Think about the “tsunami” of Big Data forecast to wash over utilities with the creation of the Internet of Things. UAVs and robotics are here today and by developing holistic information management tactics and also the ICT foundation to allow for them, utilities will likely be well prepared to exploit other brand new nonoperational information solutions. If utilities act in concert to clarify industry needs for vendors to relieve adoption, they are going to be much better ready for the long term.

An Action For UAVs/Robotics

Develop a good power grid with an ICT foundation created for future needs, prior to developing an intelligent grid (requires IT/OT cooperation).
Ensure ICT networks hold the bandwidth, speed and throughput to tackle all nonoperational and operational data for the foreseeable long term.
Pursue solutions, backed by technology, that align with company owners plus customer needs/expectations.
Map data from sensor to possible end user and develop a “data mart” which guarantees every authorized individual has permission to access other information which creates value (requires organization wide collaboration).
If/when UAVs or robotics prove helpful to any energy, that business may have the ICT foundation and alternative data management practices set up to produce full use of these brand new sources of information and also enhance the business case for them. See
The energy industry must act in concert to expect that UAV and robotics vendors meet business needs with regular data formats and protocols to speed the time to value.