Voimatel uses drones for grid inspections and fault management

Voimatel continuously develops new methods to increase its production efficiency. The use of drones for grid inspections and fault management is a currently available method for us today. At Voimatel we have already tested them in practice and developed their use as part of our grid inspection and fault management procedures.

We have worked as one of the participants in a pilot study commissioned by Finnish Energy and the Electricity Research Pool to analyse the use of light drones (multicopters) for the localisation of grid faults and malfunctions. Among other things, the pilot study was geared towards establishing the applicability of drones for malfunction clarification work through field tests, to test fault data interpretation from the observation results material, and to test the observation data transfer to the grid information systems.

Vesan Ilmakuvaus is a company that operated as Voimatel Oy’s partner performing the VLOS (Visual Line Of Sight) flight operations over the area of Savon Voima Verkko Oy, and the Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) operations by means of an autopilot system and manual control. The image files obtained were considered to be of high quality and perfectly acceptable for the localisation of grid faults and malfunctions. The successful use of drones can shorten the fault repair process in power failure situations by speeding up the corrective action. The drone operators regarded the equipment as easy-to-use and well-functioning, after having become thoroughly familiar with their use, in addition to the observable aviation regulations.

Voimatel has continued the study as part of its own development work. We have made overhead wire inspection flights for 20kV and 110kV grids and used drone-recoded data as an aid in our terrain design work.

Multicopters have been found to be excellent tools in unhurried inspection work when grid faults or damage is suspected, prior to causing interruptions in power supply or transfer. A suspected point of damage or malfunctioning grid section can be viewed from a multicopter at a close distance, without having to switch off the power to the wire or another grid component in question. The equipment is applicable for the inspection of insulated medium voltage wires (PAS) following major disturbance situations, for example. Multicopters are also a very competitive alternative for periodic grid inspections, compared to conventional walk around and helicopter inspections. The flight-based data obtained helps terrain design by optimising the land use and the placement of the wire routes. The use of drones also reduces the need for moving in the terrain, thus decreasing the risk of occupational accidents.

Voimatel is responding to grid companies’ interest in utilising drone flights. We offer our services to boost the clients’ fault management efficiency.