Grid inspections made easier, safer by drones in mountainous province

(Xinhua) 15:54, October 24, 2023

GUIYANG, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- At an intelligent operations center in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, a screen was showcasing an unmanned drone gliding through two girders on a power grid.

The center, operated by the Guizhou branch of China Southern Power Grid (CSG), is promoting the use of drones for grid inspections and maintenance. These automated devices are gaining popularity across a province known for its hilly landscape and volatile weather.

"Drones are a perfect match for Guizhou," said Zhang Xin, a technician with the operations center. He recalled the old days when maintenance workers had to routinely trek through mountains and climb towering grids.

"Drones help us get our jobs done more efficiently and keep us safe from the risks posed by manual work," Zhang said.

According to Zhang, two types of drones are utilized during an inspection session. One is a large fixed-wing drone, usually tasked with exploring the environmental conditions of areas where power grids are to be inspected.

"Guizhou is widely known as a mountainous and heavily-forested region. With this drone we can make sure if the hills and trees will affect our inspection work," Zhang said.

After examining the images sent back by the fixed-wing drone, workers will give approval for the flight of a smaller and multirotor drone, which has greater flexibility that enables it to fly closer to the power grid.

This drone is able to follow pre-determined mission routes that evade obstructions and collects images of flaws automatically, greatly reducing manual efforts, Zhang said.

"By analyzing 3D images of the defects captured by the drone, we can figure out root causes and generate maintenance plans for our workers," Zhang said.

Currently, drones are being utilized for inspections of 90 percent of power transmission lines all across Guizhou, improving inspection efficiency by 150 percent compared with traditional manual approaches, data from the operations center showed.

The company said while stepping up efforts to apply the use of unmanned drones to more scenarios, it will also maximize the use of artificial intelligence and improve data analytics capabilities to ward off defects and risks.

"Our aim is to not only liberate grassroots workers from manual work, but to enhance the operational capability of our grids as well as boost economic and social development," said Chen Fengxiang, who spoke on behalf of the operations center.

"We will continue to replace traditional operation models with smart ones to improve the operational efficiency of our grids and push forward digital transformation," Chen added.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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