Arkansas utility sets record in UAV grid inspection


In the US state of Arkansas, Ozarks Electric Cooperative has selected the Honeywell Aerospace and Process Solutions Smart Energy to optimise monitoring and management of its grid network.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) service and sophisticated data analytics software provided as part of the solution has helped the utility cooperative to shorten grid inspection time, avoiding deploying staff to do dangerous jobs and advancing operations and reduce costs.

The utility has inspected more than 100 miles of power lines and provided actionable data within five days using the solution.

Without the service, the work would take two weeks for 15 employees to monitor energy lines on foot, as well as a full day by helicopter, but with higher safety risk, cost and insufficient data quality.

Ozarks faces a challenge to access its transmission lines due to mountains, rivers and valleys within its service region.

The project included drafting a UAV flight plan and ensuring it complies with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, under the first phase.

Drones will be deployed during the second stage using autonomous flight management software to capture thousands of images and raw data along the way.

Captured data is then analysed using data analytics and machine learning software to identify potential hazards such as vegetation encroachment or hardware defects, and prioritises them based on how urgently they need attention.

The results were then provided to the utility via a web portal.

Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO, Ozarks Electric Cooperative, said: “Ozarks Electric Cooperative is constantly trying to innovate and improve in areas like reliability, quality and sustainability,”

The project follows the United States Department of Labor listing utility line work as one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the country.