Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Utilities turn to drones to improve maintenance efforts

Steve Rogerson
March 15, 2016
 
The transmission and distribution industry is expected to invest nearly $16.2bn in drones and robotics technology from 2015 to 2024, according to Navigant Research. Drone technologies in particular can assist utility infrastructure maintenance efforts by determining where ground crews should be deployed.
 
While unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) continue to make headlines as they grow in popularity and increasingly show up in public airspace, the drive to establish commercial uses for the technology is proceeding at a rapid pace. Transmission and distribution (T&D) operators and utilities are beginning to examine how UAVs can reduce costs, improve safety and increase response times across their systems.
 
“Working on high- and medium-voltage T&D systems is difficult, expensive and highly dangerous; in fact, a line worker is considered one of the ten most dangerous occupations in the USA,” said James McCray, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “While the market is still at an early stage, there’s a strong motivation in allowing utilities and transmissions operators to preform inspections and maintenance without endangering crew members.”
 
The stability and reliability of T&D systems is an integral part of economic development and growth. As these systems become more interconnected across service territories, operational issues can easily cascade across borders, causing larger problems. Maintaining T&D systems is typically a utility’s number one priority, and these technologies can assist in assessing areas to determine where crews should be deployed.
 
The report analyses the global market for the technology, with a focus on five categories – multi-rotor UAVs, fixed wing UAVs, ground and line robotics, integration and analytics, and inspection services. The study also provides an analysis of the market issues, including drivers, barriers and regulatory factors.