The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has successfully demonstrated the use of drones equipped with imaging devices for inspections of its transmission lines using a Private LTE (P-LTE) wireless network. The first-of-its-kind drone inspection also showed that high definition video and thermal imaging remote live stream technologies embedded in the drones enabled unmanned, detailed inspections within close proximity of in-service transmission lines. The test flights are aimed at helping NYPA, and potentially other utilities, safely inspect many miles of transmission lines with drones using wireless networks to convey images and data.
“The ultimate goal of this project is to leverage all the benefits of the ever-evolving innovation in wireless technology, and this is an exciting first step,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “The pilot program to install Private LTE Wireless technology across our generation and transmission network is integral to NYPA’s transition to becoming an end-to-end digital utility so it is extremely gratifying to see the progress of this drone test.”
The drone flights took place in early December at NYPA’s Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project in Schoharie County. The flight was within the visual line of sight and fully compliant with FAA rules and regulations.
The test flights were part of a pilot program that began last month when NYPA awarded a contract to Nokia to pilot private LTE wireless technology. NYPA is using Nokia Digital Automation Cloud platform to help build a secure, robust and reliable network to enhance operational and programmatic benefits. The ability to safely monitor and inspect NYPA’s generation and transmission assets through the use of drones is one among many applications NYPA intends to test.
“These drone flights illustrate the power of the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud’s Private LTE wireless technology. NYPA was able to operate the drone via the LTE connection and monitor the drone camera feed in real-time with dedicated bandwidth. There is no better demonstration of the value that private wireless networks brings to utilities and other industries than real-life use-cases such as this one,” said Raghav Sahgal, President, Nokia Enterprise.
NYPA, the nation’s largest state public power organization, relies heavily on wireless communications to conduct and monitor its operations. The new LTE technology will be piloted at the B-G site and then may be deployed at other NYPA sites, including the 16 generating facilities it operates and the 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines across the state it owns and operates. Once the network is fully installed, NYPA intends to petition the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to fly drones beyond visual line of sight to make inspections of hard to reach transmission lines easier.
The LTE wireless network pilot program is targeted to complement several critical NYPA initiatives including its robust Communication Backbone and Sensor Deployment Programs. The $153 million Communication Backbone Program aims to replace NYPA’s existing point-to-point circuits to manage the increased data flow from the deployment of intelligent sensors. Since 2017, NYPA has been working to install state-of-the-art sensor devices to more closely monitor the health of its transmission and generation assets and to further enable the capabilities of its iSOC, Integrated Smart Operations Center.
In addition to using the LTE wireless network system to enhance drone technology for inspections, once adopted, NYPA will look to employ the network in the following areas:
- Workforce Mobility applications, including Voice-over LTE
- Deep metering services and analytics of customer energy consumption
- Wi-Fi telephony and Push-to-Talk (PTT) applications
- Secure communications for emergency management and service restoration
- Internet of Things (IoT) applications
- Data transport to support NYPA energy efficiency initiatives.
NYPA and Nokia are scheduled to begin testing Workforce Mobility applications soon. To learn more about digital transformation at NYPA visit NYPA’s website .