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Using Skydio to Transform Electric Utility Inspections at Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative

Posted Apr 27, 2023 | Views 1.4K
# Utilities
# Inspection
# Maintenance
Levi Young
GIS Analyst & UAS Pilot @ Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corporation

Levi Young is a GIS Analyst/ UAS Pilot for Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corporation (AVECC). He has been in his role for 4 years with prior experience in 3d modeling and drafting in CAD and various other software.

Levi currently holds a B.S. in Animation Technology and an associates degree in Digital Design. He also holds various certificates for digital design and animation technology. In 2018 Levi was awarded the Academic Excellence Award for his work in the Animation Technology field. He is a certified Part 107 Pilot and sUAS Level I Thermographer. As a Pilot for AVECC, Levi is responsible for flying ahead of linemen in disaster situations to find out where system failure has occurred and report back what is found and needed to restore power. Levi also fly’s maintenance inspections to ensure that company assets are stable and whether maintenance is needed before system failure can happen.

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Angad Singh
Sales Manager @ Skydio

Angad Singh is a Sales Manager at Skydio, responsible for Enterprise, State, Local, and Education partner sales. He is a go-to-market professional who has been working with UAS based photogrammetry, geospatial, and remote sensing for close to 10 years.

Educated at McGill University with a focus on Remote Sensing, he then went on to be a teammate and leader at BRINC Drones, and Pix4D's North American operations. Outside of the drone industry, Angad enjoys mountain biking and the outdoors.

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Corey Hitchcock
Utility Solutions Specialist @ Skydio

Corey joined Skydio as a utility solutions specialist in early 2023. Prior to Skydio, Corey led UAS Program Development and Operations with Southern Co. Aerial Services. Corey developed methods for operating drones across the nuclear, gas, and power verticals, notably flying one of the first UAS inspections on an operating nuclear reactor. At Skydio, he is developing dock based drone use cases for autonomous inspections as well as focused routine, event based, and security inspections for substations. These dock based inspections are focused on reducing the duration and frequency of outages, allowing for predictive based maintenance plans to be implemented.

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Levi Young, GIS/UAS Analyst at Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative describes how they are using aerial inspection workflows with Skydio drones to cut inspection time by over 50% while unlocking new capabilities and mitigating employee risk.

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[Music] hi I'm Levi young as Arkansas Valley Electric my goal is always reducing outage time whether it be for asset fault or a storm making safety our number one priority and then reducing costs because everyone wants to reduce costs [Music] when we do have an outage whether it be storm related or asset health related a lot of times we're called on to go out in front of the lineman let's find the damage find where things are going wrong report back and that way they have exactly what they need and know exactly where to go before we ever get there substation measurement and substation inspections mapping out the substation and being able to update spec sheets or get sizes on things or even asset Health again because a healthy substation is going to keep everything running better if you're keeping up with asset Health ahead of time the proactiveness of it it's going to make it better in the long term you're going to have less of those outages foreign [Music] we're wanting to map a substation typically we were looking for spec sheet updates or something like that because maybe this specially was damaged or it was illegible or it hadn't been put into digital yet things like that we're wanting to get a size comparison to the whole substation so as you can see on the pictures here we would put a stick or a piece of PVC pipe with some markings on it for measurements and we would know the size of that object and put it up on a long stick next to the power grid whatever it may have been at the time in this case an insulator we're able to take pictures of the entire substation we took thousands of pictures and it took about a day to take all of these pictures just flying it took several people I mean there was a few of us pilots and then there was a few linemen a sub tag maybe an engineer as well we had to do all this Gathering of information and then after that we still had to have somebody come back to the office take all of those photos and take that measurement that we know of that sticker that piece of pipe and we're able to tell our sizing of insulators or bolt patterns or whatever it may have been but they had to do it for every single picture and if they ever needed to go back they had to go find that picture through thousands of pictures thank you [Music] we went from having to have several people there now I can go by myself and fly an entire substation without anybody there one or two pilots may be necessary for an inspection like this but that's about it I can go out there I can put the Drone down let's send it up into the air and say okay here is this object here's this object and there's this object and then it goes and scans every single one of those on its own and I don't have to touch the controller after I say go it's a process that's so easy almost anyone could do it in a substation immediately

[Music] in the older drones if you even went around a transmission line you would start to lose signal this is a live substation I pushed the button and the Drone was able to fly on its own and we never lost connection we were able to view pictures of it view the model it was making at the time we knew it was gathering plenty of data on what it needed to see it never even thought about hitting a line I mean it dipped and dive it went between bus lines highly energized no problem at all foreign [Music] once we took the scan in about two and a half hours for the whole thing we were able to push it over to Gen X Labs which is a software that we use just in flight time to take this from a day of flying to just the two and a half hours one thing that was really amazing was we're able to get the geometry out of these insulators typically in photogrammetry you get a cylinder we can double click in here just if we're looking at Inspections just to make sure of the health no tracking on our insulators and things like that that spot that you clicked on the 3D model is then referenced over to the 2D photo that was used to create that model you're able to get the full resolution image and be able to inspect those insulator pins and really get in there and view your asset we can annotate the image just as well as we can annotate our model here so we can Mark spots that are damaged or anything like that as well and we can slide through to different pictures and different angles on this as well it's really helping for inspection purposes and whatnot

[Music] this is one of the main things that we were looking at because we wanted to be able to measure for spec sheets and things like that or for future builds to say okay this substation was built this way and we want to go from this point and build into a new one but we know we need the same sizes or things like that and we're able to do things like bolt spacing here you can see I was able to take this polyline and measure so we can assume out of this that all of these are the same bolt spacing of a 0.45 which about five and a half inches and there's three foot in between these two and about a foot in between those two we know that's a six inch across beam and it's showing that it's exactly half a foot because you can see here that's all Shadow over there so we know from there to there is exactly six inches which gives you confidence in your other measurements that you made on your 3D model if you take a known measurement and the incredible part is none of this was done with the rtk system and we're still able to find this a pretty cool model because with this model and the 3D scan you can clearly see the status of the recloser that it's online you've got your line in source side disconnects closed and that your bypasses are open then if you click in on the sheds of that insulator you can get a pretty decent view of the polymer up there there's several angles of every single piece [Music] the aircraft we used for this one was the X2 color substation I did in three different scans we did this high side as one scan and it's a 3D Tower scan it's not the regular 3D scanner 3D Tower because the tower scan really finds these lattice structures really well then we did the Transformer as one and the low side is one and the high side I believe took two batteries one switch so we started with full battery switched once and used most of the next one the Transformer and the breaker here in the middle took one battery the only reason why I say it questioning like that it may have been the one that was left over from the high side and I'm not 100 on that and then two again for the low sign with the Skydio's capability of looking directly up with that gimbal we can see the bottom side of insulators and the top side but the ground inspections aren't finding things that you're going to see from above [Music] I would do even weekly inspections if I had a dock at a substation so we have 36 substations so at least every substation once a year more frequently as a doc purpose I would love to do it monthly weekly because the Drone can sit there once you get that bvlos which I believe you guys have a system that works with people to acquire that specifically in a substation today a human has to go out there and take out that drone and scan that that's labor to get out there that's an individual's time you have a lot of other work to do right but what makes you more efficient if you know it's a repetitive task is to have a docked drone at that substation now you can do this type of work but the Drone flight and the image collection process will be done by itself so you could put a Skydio Dock in that substation and this drone could once a week or once a day or whatever interval you wanted take off do the whole automated scan by itself come back home into its dock recharge its batteries it's connected to the internet all those photos will be uploaded via the cloud to you so that you can then process that Genex Labs or whatever other solution you want Skydio I'll get you the waivers it'll give you the dock it'll put the Drone out there and now you can do these repetitive tasks over and over and over without a human in the loop and it's making your company more effective and more efficient and that's the future of where we're going right that's not what you're doing today but it's where you want to go one dock installed at one substation can have multiple use cases right you could have a security use case performing randomized perimeter patrols you could do your routine inspection you could do a event based inspection for instance if there was a differential at the station you could have the dot with a differential scheme pre-programmed as a mission a differential happens the dock launches and then the Drone inspects all the different components associated with that differential scheme so it's important to note that one Dock and has multiple use cases inside of a substation or transmission line or other facility

after you do this type of inspection you find problem what's the workflow to repair look like so if we're ever looking for problems which we usually want to look for problems in these situations we're going to bring it back of course process the data we'll bring it into Genex and then we can review photos and we can actually Mark each photo as reviewed or not reviewed or problem and then we can PDF a list of all of the annotations all the issues and everything like that and that can be given to whoever's going to be doing the repairs

[Music] with gnext I can switch between folders on my file explorer and drag them directly in so I can say here's this one here's this one here's this one and it just knows to put them all together because it has the metadata from all those photos and that they all fit together how are you guys determining when you want to do a 3D scan on a poll versus when you want to do just a few photos of the poll we most often just do regular photos but here lately our Engineers have been going back redoing spec sheets even for a three-pot Transformer Bank I've scanned four or five of those in the last month I would say more often just plain pictures but the skydio still you never have to worry about hitting a line it's incredible in just the manual mode to do that we're training a new pilot and her first time ever flying a drone was with the Skydio and she scanned a transmission pull I'm happy to be using Skydio I'm happy to be able to do this

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