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SPEN switches to drone technology for network inspection to drive down emissions

Image: SPEN.

Image: SPEN.

SP Energy Networks (SPEN) is switching to drone technology for transmission network inspection, following a successful trial last year.

A fleet of drones will now carry out condition-based assessments across Central and Southern Scotland where the distribution network operator (DNO) manages the transmission system.

Previously, visually assessing the towers was done solely by helicopters, but by switching to drones the company can reduce its carbon footprint and its costs.

Pearse Murray, transmission director for SPEN, said completing the regular inspections is a massive undertaking but the drone technology “represents a significant step forward for a number of reasons".

“Firstly, it’s hugely beneficial for the environment and the imagery we obtain is of a high standard due to the flexibility of the drones in assessing tower conditions, meaning we can make even more informed decisions.

“Following the successful trial, we also realised that the drones dramatically minimise the impacts on landowners and make it much easier to arrange access to land when we require it.”

Drone-based inspection firm Cyberhawk has been awarded the inspections contract until the end of 2022, using its iHawk software to collect data from 85 different points on the towers.

This data allows the DNO to assess network risk and inform future investment into the hardware, ensuring network resilience and security.

Chris Fleming, Cyberhawk CEO, highlighted that the DNO had chosen a “more environmentally conscious solution”, supporting its emissions reductions targets, “while returning more accurate results through our state-of-the-art drone inspection technology and iHawk software".

“This has also assisted SP Energy Networks in maintaining critical inspection services throughout the coronavirus pandemic, helping to keep the lights on for millions of customers in the UK and ensuring safe operations across its network.”

SPEN is targeting network resilience through a number of pathways, including investing £2.3 million into technology that creates 3D maps of electricity in December.

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