Photo by Руслан Ибрагимов, Dreamstime
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Bird’s Eye: Multi-Sensor System, AI Ensure Secure Power Supply in Germany

May 31, 2022
CO2 emissions decreased by reducing helicopter flights.

The German grid operators Schleswig Holstein Netz AG and Bayernwerk Netz GmbH have commissioned Siemens Energy to inspect almost 4,000 kilometers of high-voltage overhead lines. The inspection will be conducted by a helicopter equipped with a high-tech multi-sensor system using the SIEAERO service concept.

Developed by Siemens Energy, the system collects all the necessary data during the flight, which can later be evaluated with the help of artificial intelligence and analyzed by other software tools. In the near future, this kind of holistic inspection of overhead power lines can also be performed with large drones.

For the inspection, Siemens Energy attaches SIEAERO's multi-sensor system to the underside of a helicopter. Equipped with 19 cameras and 3D laser scanning sensors, it captures all relevant inspection data in a single flight over the pipeline, resulting in up to 12,000 images and detailed 3D data per kilometer of power line. The SIEAERO’s software, which uses artificial intelligence, can evaluate the images in just a few hours, whereas a human would need a few days.

The artificial intelligence was previously trained with over two million images of European and North American grids to automatically detect faults in the images. This allows potential risks like trees growing too close to the line to be detected earlier. During the flights, the surface temperature of the individual components is also measured, among other things.

The digital data obtained provides a precise and detailed overview of the condition of the operating equipment, and it can be combined with existing data from the grid for other evaluations.

Every kilometer of line flown generates 300 gigabytes of data. The SIEAERO system uses this data to create a digital twin, a highly accurate image of the network infrastructure being inspected, including poles, lines, terrain and vegetation.

With the digital twin, network operators can simulate extreme events like a tree falling on a line and causing it to fail and take the appropriate preventive measures. To guarantee a continuous power supply during the energy transition, the power grids need to be expanded. With comprehensive 3D models of the grid, the necessary expansion and modification measures can be planned and implemented more quickly.

In the future, drones could simplify and improve the inspection of power lines. Siemens Energy has already successfully performed several test flights with a drone equipped with the SIEAERO system. Using a drone has a number of advantages: It’s more environmentally friendly and quieter than a helicopter, and critical locations could be approached in a more targeted manner. Currently, however, most countries still prohibit the use of unmanned aerial vehicles beyond the visual range. As soon as the legal situation permits in these countries, Siemens Energy will also offer SIEAERO as a drone service. 

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