Utility Study Demonstrates Benefits of Drones and IoT-Enabled Visual Software to Ensure Safer, More Reliable Power Grid

Cyberhawk, a global leader in drone-based inspections and creator of iHawk, a cloud-based asset visualization software platform, has released a case study that examines how its drone-based visual assessment and data management of SSEN Transmission’s high-voltage network is helping the utility maintain a safe, reliable and secure power grid. As a key part of the SSE Group, one of the largest electric companies in the U.K., loss of any key power corridor can mean the reduction of crucial green energy from Scotland’s renewable generation base and/or result in reduced power availability for its customers.

After using the Cyberhawk system extensively for several years, this new study documents how SSEN Transmission has been able to remotely monitor and survey more than 11,500 high-voltage transmission towers and nearly 150 substations. Cyberhawk provides actionable insights and unprecedented levels of access to terabytes of multi-level data through its enterprise-grade iHawk software. Utility stakeholders can instantly gain a comprehensive visual understanding of their transmission lines, substations and switching substations. The in-depth visual and thermal analyses expose integrity risks and reveal potential opportunities for improvement. This significantly reduces safety risk, downtime, environmental impact and costs due to the inspection speed and by removing the need for linemen to work at height, near live lines or in generally hazardous areas.

“iHawk’s innovative approach to data management is key to managing our network assets, central to how our operations team manage inspections, maintenance, safety, and compliance,” said Stuart Knight, Head of Operations and Maintenance at SSEN Transmission.

Earlier this year, through Cyberhawk’s visual inspection data, SSEN Transmission identified a missing split pin on a tower insulator fitting. A planned outage was scheduled, and repair was carried out the following weekend. If it weren’t for the drone data being available on iHawk, it could have failed causing a network fault on a key transmission circuit. “When I was first introduced to our data held on iHawk, I could not believe the quality of data we were able to obtain at the touch of a button, from any location. It is unrivaled compared to other data management tools I have seen being used in the energy sector,” observed Knight.

Reducing Environmental Impact
Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) has been used extensively as an insulation medium in high voltage equipment for over 60 years. In 2005, the Kyoto protocol identified the gas mixture as a greenhouse gas and SSEN Transmission works tirelessly to improve leakage performance of its SF6 assets. Now, through Cyberhawk’s integrated IoT sensors, any leaks of the colorless, odorless, synthetic gas are quickly identified, limiting the effect on the environment.

“By conducting drone inspections on a regular basis, and ensuring the data is efficiently processed and accessed on iHawk, the SSEN Transmission’s operational teams can identify issues early, focusing interventions on the highest priority items, before they are allowed to fail,” noted Cyberhawk’s CEO, Chris Fleming. “Using our map-driven interface and traffic light color-coded reporting dashboard, iHawk allows easy access to critical information and trends, with ultra-high-resolution inspection images and engineering commentary available. iHawk provides ‘one source of truth,’ and the evidence required to make informed decisions.”

Leading the Industry
In a recent IDC report that named Cyberhawk as an IDC Innovator, Phevos Skalidis, research manager, IDC Energy Insights stated, “Deploying unmanned aerial vehicles for asset inspections in the utility sector has proven to be effective and affordable. Both aging infrastructure — such as thermal power plants, grid substations, and poles — and newly built renewables can benefit from better drone hardware and software.”

Cyberhawk works with global energy clients to help manage their whole power grid, including transmission, distribution, and substations. Most recently, Cyberhawk supported a major U.S. utility with inspections of over 50,000 transmission structures in California as part of its critical wildfire prevention and reliability campaign.

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