Laserpas, a utilities management company, has helped the biggest distribution network operator in Slovenia, Elektro Ljubljana, to improve its power line maintenance efficiency by inspecting a portion of its grid.
In the area inspected, Laserpas helped to identify multiple objects that posed an imminent danger to the power grid. These objects could potentially lead to power supply interruptions and, in a worst-case scenario, lead to a serious injury or even a fatality.
During the inspection, Laserpas used piloted helicopters equipped with technologies, such as 3D LiDAR scanning and high-resolution image capturing including thermal images. Laserpas’ technology allows companies to detect potential power grid hazards that would otherwise go unnoticed, even if the power lines were to be constantly subjected to other methods of surveillance.
The Elektro Ljubljana project located areas where vegetation was too high, identified structures (buildings, fences, street poles and more) within the corridor clearance zones and revealed trees that pose a substantial risk to the power lines. In addition, conductors too close to other power lines were reported.
The inspection results also involved an assessment of the condition of the towers and informed the client of towers that were significantly covered in rust and those that had broken insulators.
“Our tailor-made technological innovations are specifically designed for inspecting power lines," says Mantas Vaskela, the CEO of Laserpas. "They enabled us to help our client by discovering severe safety hazards. Without the technology, a high percentage of these hazards would have remained undetected and the line would be at higher risk of disconnection and inducing damaging cost implications for the client.”
This was actually not the first time that the electricity distribution company tried its hand with helicopter-based inspections. Elektro Ljubljana already had experience with helicopter inspections in 2009. The initial idea for the new inspection came out of testing the capabilities of drones.
“We initially wanted to test drones as an alternative to both regular foot inspections and helicopter inspections," Vaskela says. "It soon turned out that it was impossible to inspect 300 km of our powerlines with drones within a reasonable time and with reasonable costs. When we realized that, we chose helicopters to perform the inspection.”
Laserpas also captured data where foot or vehicle patrol inspection would be difficult to conduct, over rivers and water streams and roadless areas. The densely populated and industrial locations were also inspected speedily and with minimal disruption, which is much harder to achieve during manual power line surveys.
“Our findings clearly indicate that in order to avoid serious accidents and even the loss of human lives, we must continuously monitor our power grids’ safety," Vaskela says. "Laserpas and Elektro Ljubljana share the same values of ensuring that the efficiency and safety of the power lines are ensured. We are proud to be able to contribute to restoring the reliability of the network with the right use of powerful innovations."
Elektro Ljubljana had the following to say about the inspection: “Based on reliability indicators, we have decided to inspect critical overhead lines. Helicopter inspection gave us insight into our network independent from our regular inspections. Now that we have received detailed information about critical points, we can start with immediate actions to prevent potential failures and improve the reliability of our network.”
With 17,583 km of power lines, Elektro Ljubljana operates the largest distribution network in Slovenia, covering 6,166 km2 (30.4 % of the country) with the greatest share of forest land, which comprises 67% of the whole supply area. Operations are managed from its headquarters in Ljubljana and from five distribution units, ensuring that electricity efficiently reaches more than 338,500 customers.
At the moment, Elektro Ljubljana is analyzing and evaluating the data delivered in order to optimize its future helicopter inspections. The company noted that: “In this project, Laserpas proved to be a flexible and reliable partner.”