|1 February 2017|

UK

UK gas and electricity network operators are looking at drone technologies to improve their inspection methods.

The Energy Innovation Centre (EIC) has pinpointed some of the potential benefits of using drones and its energy industry partners are now working with the UK’s Department of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Transport Catapult to advance the use of these technologies as a viable alternative to traditional inspection methods.

The aim of the collaboration is to determine what drone system characteristics and operations processes are required to enable ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) operations to become routine in a range of energy network environments.

Seeking fresh approaches to the challenge, the EIC launched a call for innovation in November. It called for proposals from third parties within its global innovation community capable of delivering a program of work that would expand the range of current drone operations, and demonstrate safe flight under BVLOS conditions with CAA approval.

A record number of 21 responses were received, resulting in seven businesses being invited to pitch their ideas to the partners.

Tony Knowles, technical manager at the EIC, said: “The quality of the responses to this call for innovation was outstanding. It has created an unprecedented opportunity for companies at the forefront of this exciting new technology to engage with energy network operators who are keen to work collaboratively to adopt drones within their networks.

“Drone technology offers huge potential for the networks to increase the efficiency, safety and minimise disruption to the public with some of their operations. This is a great example of using the call process to allow them to tap in to a wealth of third party knowledge that’s out there, while also creating opportunities for SMEs to work with the networks.”