Just as wildfire season begins, this startup’s AI and Machine Vision technology platform quickly analyzes millions of images of power lines to detect flaws in the infrastructure, helping utilities to identify problem areas and repair them before a fire starts. Buzz Solutions, a StartX accelerator startup, has raised $1.2 million to perform image analysis and provide actionable reports in a matter of hours or days, compared to the six to eight months it takes utilities now when the work is performed by engineers. In the process, the platform saves utilities 50- to 70-percent in costs according to the company.
The seed round was led by Blackhorn Ventures with participation from a syndicate comprising Ulu Ventures, Vodia Ventures, and Advisors.fund. The company’s technology is already being used in pilot projects at a large southern California utility, a large Midwest utility and two large New York utilities.
How Buzz Solutions Platform Works
As wildfires and an aging grid infrastructure cause even more serious and dangerous recurrent problems as a result of climate change, power line inspection, and analysis are critically important. In fact, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection just determined that PG&E’s transmission lines were at fault for last year’s massive Kincade Fire, which burned 78,000 acres and caused the evacuation of 200,000 people.
The current method for reviewing the status of the power lines is that every year, power companies collaborate with other organizations to capture hundreds of thousands of images of power lines, towers, and surrounding vegetation using drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft. Processing these images takes six to eight months and involves linemen and engineers who manually map all that data together, looking for faults and failures and flagging them for an in-person inspection. During this lengthy inspection cycle, however, a line could easily go down, igniting a wildfire and mandating forced shutdowns.
In contrast, the Buzz Solutions analytics, insights and asset-tracking platform reviews the grid inspection images captured by these varied sources which are stored in the cloud. The solution runs the images through its proprietary algorithms to detect faults on all the major components of transmission and distribution lines. The solution also searches for areas where vegetation may be encroaching on the equipment and posing a fire risk. This AI analysis is done in hours or days. The utilities can then take steps to evaluate flagged images and repair or replace the equipment.
“It is definitely time to move forward using AI to reduce the wildfire threat. We believe the utility industry is ready to use a far better approach to keep their equipment in good working order and keep people and property safe,” said Kaitlyn Albertoli, Co-founder and CEO, Buzz Solutions.
In addition to the tremendous time-savings, the technology also saves utilities 50 percent or more in processing costs. Ultimately, by finding frayed or broken lines before a fire starts, utilities save lives and property, and billions of dollars annually.
Buzz Solutions also provides a predictive asset management system. This platform uses predictive modeling and analytics from historical data, asset and fault data, and weather data to proactively determine where there will likely be faults and high-risk areas in the future.
“There is no doubt that utilities across the country are looking to inspect power lines in faster and more effective ways,” said Vikhyat Chaudhry, Co-founder and CTO, COO, Buzz Solutions. “Our vision is to use innovative technology to safeguard our infrastructure and environment today and help to predict where problems will crop up in the future. This is even more important as we are seriously impacted by climate change.”