According to a statement made by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) about the drone program's success, the agency in New York is making headway by combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) with its in-house drone inspection program.
This combination, officials say, allows “transmission lines to be more quickly and thoroughly evaluated and any potential issues that could lead to power failure to be identified earlier,”
Buzz Solutions, a platform that is driven by artificial intelligence, is used by the NYPA to evaluate the data and photos that are acquired by drones.
The drone program, in combination with AI, has made inspections far more effective, which has freed up professionals to work on other, more important jobs.
The initiative is in line with the strategic priorities of NYPA, which call for the development of innovative energy solutions and the modernization of grid infrastructure to make it more efficient to deliver clean power. Both of these goals will be accomplished through the implementation of this initiative.
Drone program and AI
“Drone Technology has the potential to streamline the way we analyze our transmission assets,” said Christina Park, NYPA's director of asset intelligence solutions in the statement. “The proof-of-concept testing showed that using an artificial intelligence-based platform significantly reduced the time required for inspection and analysis. Asset images can be analyzed in hours or days rather than months and allow our maintenance groups to prioritize repairs and reduce the potential of failure.”
Traditionally, power companies, such as the NYPA, have conducted yearly inspections of their power lines using helicopters and other types of aircraft, such as fixed-wing aircraft.
Drones have emerged as the dominant technology in recent years. However, even with the most cutting-edge aircraft, each individual picture from each of the millions of images captured must be inspected by hand by trained professionals.
In order to process these photographs, lineman and engineers must first put all of the data together, after which they must search for defects and failures and mark them so that they may be inspected in person.
According to the statement, the process of converting raw data into usable information may take anywhere from six weeks to eight months and thousands of hours of human labor.
The process of conversion is made 10 times more efficient by AI. In addition to this, it is superior than human inspectors when it comes to locating errors.
“Human labor is incredibly expensive and is also prone to a higher error rate over time, which is where AI really has the biggest advantage as it continues to improve at scale,” said Vikhyat Chaudhry, co-founder, COO and CTO of Buzz Solutions. Chaudry said the Buzz PowerAI program has 85% baseline accuracy, and includes a tool that keeps human observers “in-the-loop.”
According to the announcement, the NYPA drone pilots have already uploaded “thousands of photos to demonstrate how the AI solution can quickly review imagery for efficient and more accurate reports,”
“The system detects faults for transmission and distribution lines and can reduce inspection costs by minimalizing in-person inspections, while helping reduce potentially dangerous situations.”
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has set a goal to become the first completely digital utility by the year 2030.
To achieve this goal, the utility plans to implement artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in order to track assets, understand high-risk infrastructure areas, prioritize maintenance work orders, and reduce the risk associated with those locations.
“The value of AI at scale is it becomes stronger, more accurate, and more personalized to each utility's dataset, making inspections more time and cost efficient,” Chaudry said.
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