Elia Innovation

Drones today and future development

Drones (will) change the way we maintain our grid. An inovative way to inspect, guard and maintain pylons is using drones fitted with cameras.

We’re piloting them now, but the autonomy of these drones is our task for the future.

What is  the project about?

Innovation, here deploying drones fitted with cameras, is changing the way we maintain the pylons of our overhead lines. Drones speed up pylon inspections, can get up really close, do not interrupt the power supply and incur fewer safety risks.

In a pilot project, 5 employees are being trained to control drones

What can Elia use and what will be the outcome for society?

The use of drones will reduce the safety risks faced by Elia employees during inspections. Flexibility and efficiency will improve, helping Elia to keep grid management costs under control.

Future

In addition to implementing drones in this way, Elia is also investing in the medium-term development of these activities to continue improving drone safety and autonomy.

Relying on manual control is not only very complex and prone to human error; it is often an inefficient way of providing a drone service.

Elia is participating in a project that will take an integrated approach to developing low-level and application-level software, reliable communication, drone sensors and hardware to ensure maximum safety and support autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) deployment for pylon inspections. This will help Elia to maximise cost-effectiveness while using drones in a safe, compliant way, whilst continuing to improve the maintenance of its assets.

Quotes

"Finally we are able to demonstrate that drones can improve our maintenance activities in the areas of safety, quality and efficiency. In this project we will analyze which activities will be carried out by our own technicians and which will be outsourced."

Walter Geelen, Project Sponsor

"It is clear that the inspection of infrastructure is one of the major use cases in which the drone industry will develop. We see that also fellow TSOs are starting to use drones for inspections."

Michiel Uwaerts, Project Manager Innovation