Advanced drone technology
In any power outage, time is of the essence. Traditionally, when we had a fault or outage, field operators would need to locate it, sometimes in hazardous conditions or terrain. It could be a long-winded, risky and time-consuming task.
What we explored
We have been exploring how advanced technology and drones can help our network operators locate and diagnose faults faster. The drones are capable of thermal imaging, provide geospatial data and can live stream footage direct to office staff.
Rather than a ‘Eureka’ moment, discovering novel applications for drones and the advance imaging technology has been the result of experimentation and staff ingenuity. A prime example was when a resourceful network operator mounted a drone on his truck in a waterproof plastic container to protect the thermal camera from the elements. This innovative solution enabled the rapid detection of faults, which are typically difficult to locate with the naked eye. Instead of spending up to 15 hours searching, faults can now be identified within just 30 minutes, using the thermal imaging camera from the comfort of a vehicle.
We're now using drones to detect line-faults on the network and were the first Electricity Distribution Business in Aotearoa to weave this process into our day-to-day operations. We plan to continue exploring new capabilities and use cases, including enabling autonomous drone operations to detect faults and remote visual inspection at substations.
Our innovative application of these technologies reduces the time our customers spend without power. The ability to fly above properties instead of traversing through fields and disturbing livestock is appreciated by landowners.
Real-time access to drone footage during emergencies provides better insight on the situation, facilitating prompt decision-making and a more effective response. This has dramatically improved our operational processes and is keeping our people safer by reducing the need to travel into often remote and hazardous areas for manual inspections.
Orion has actively collaborated with other energy networks, such as Powerco, to share their drone technology insights and assist in scaling the learning and benefits across the industry.