eSmart Systems, Xcel Energy, and EDM International recently announced the completion of the first phase of a strategic initiative to enhance the aerial inspection of Xcel Energy's transmission system. The foundation of this solution is collaborative intelligence, which combines human intelligence with Grid Vision, an AI-based analytics solution from eSmart.
The first phase, launched in December 2019, was successful in deploying collaborative intelligence to inspect and document 2897 miles of Xcel Energy's transmission assets and finished ahead of schedule in March. The multiyear initiative will be expanded into phase two to continue to update asset records, reduce operational costs, decrease failure rates, and extend asset life.
Phase two of the initiative was launched in May 2020. It builds on the success of phase one, with an additional 5000 miles of Xcel Energy's transmission system to be inspected by the end of 2020. As in phase one, transmission asset imagery will be collected by Xcel Energy's unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and manned helicopters.
Phase two will further improve the inspection processes by enhancing the collaborative intelligence approach with a deeper integration of eSmart's Grid Vision into their existing business processes. eSmart and EDM are leveraging the phase one image data to improve the efficacy of Grid Vision, making the asset component identification and defect detection more efficient and effective.
"Xcel Energy's work on UAS with our partners demonstrates that collaboration benefits customers, the economy, and the environment," said Michael Lamb, senior vice president, transmission, Xcel Energy. "Our company is an industry leader in using UAS technologies for transmission line inspections and our work with eSmart Systems and EDM will help improve the safety and reliability of the energy grid."
"eSmart Systems is pleased to partner with EDM to bring its collaborative intelligence approach to help Xcel Energy use aerial image data. We see this project as helping utilities to practically bridge the gap in the transition from today's largely manual processes to the world that leverages digital technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and UAS images for grid inspection and asset management," said Knut H. H. Johansen, CEO and founder of eSmart Systems.
"Phase one was a tremendous success for the partnership of Xcel Energy, EDM, and eSmart. We are now in the process of applying those results to enhance our large-scale transmission inspection capabilities. The problems we're solving for Xcel Energy, including a full inventory of grid assets and updating their inventory system, as well as accelerating the identification of defects, will help utilities more efficiently and safely operate their critical infrastructure," said Steve Hambric, president of North America at eSmart Systems.
The collaborative intelligence approach combines human intelligence from EDM's T&D Subject Matter Experts with Grid Vision. Together they analyze aerial images captured by UAS and manned helicopters. This project is seen as a key linchpin transitioning from today's manual grid inspection practices to a process that uses the optimal combination of humans, AI, and aerial images. These synergies result in more efficiently inspected grid systems, reduced failure rates, and extended asset life.