Navarra brings next generation drones for powerline inspection

powerline inspection

UFD, Naturgy’s electricity distribution subsidiary, has partnered with Navarra-based startup FuVeX. This company developed an aircraft with a patented design that will be used to more efficiently perform powerline inspection with drones, eliminating security risks for workers.

The idea was first developed in the fall of 2018. The first step was a detailed analysis of the operation in terms of safety and compliance with the regulation in force. Then, the company made several technical tests and adaptations. Finally, UFD successfully made the first unmanned flight over powerlines beyond the line of sight in Spain. In detail, this pioneering flight took place in Huete, in the province of Cuenca.

Drones from Navarra

UFD is promoting the use of remote-controlled long-range drones to work beyond the line of sight in powerline inspection. The purpose is to improve the productivity of these inspections with a device that is halfway between a helicopter and a traditional drone.

FuVeX develops these drones in Navarra, combining greater range with a lower cost. It is the first flight of these characteristics made in Spain, putting UFD at the lead of these types of operations.

According to UFD director Raul Suarez, “our company is a synonym of open innovation and our focus is permanently on in-house talent and generating knowledge intersections with external talent; thus finding the best way to generate and develop new ideas and products that provide differential value in the market. This is the case with this powerline inspection project using drones that fly beyond the visual line of sight, placing us at the lead for this type of technology in Spain and Europe.”

The FuVeX startup designed these drones as plane/multirotor hybrids with an easy to operate patented design. Thanks to its vertical takeoff/landing, it can fly over any flat surface. Furthermore, the device has a cruise mode with five times more range than helicopters and multirotors.

The aircraft incorporates systems that enable to fly in a safe, legal, and coordinated manner with airspace authorities.

A flagship project for the national industry

Currently, powerlines are being inspected by drones that fly on the visual line of sight, meaning a maximum of 500 meters from the pilot. UFD’s deal with FuVeX was signed under the current regulations. However, it also anticipates the European regulations for BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight).

UFD and FuVeX intend to take drones to the next industrial step: long-distance flights, in order to become the first company to industrially operate long distance BVLOS drones over powerlines in 2020.

Public-private collaboration

The first test flight was possible thanks to the collaboration and coordination with the State Air Security Agency (AESA) in charge of overseeing operations with drones of up to 150kg and ENAIRE, air navigation and aeronautics information manager, fourth in Europe in terms of volume and traffic and one of the most relevant worldwide.

UFD and Naturgy stand out due to quality

Electricity distributor Naturgy is the third Spanish operator with presence in Galicia, where it is the largest distributor, Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, and Castilla and Leon.

Nowadays, it supplies over 3.7 million supply points through a network of more than 113,000 kilometers of low, medium, and high voltage lines.

UFD has made an important effort in recent years to innovate and implement new technologies to advance in terms of Telemedia and Telemanagement of supply points, network telecontrol and sensorization, as well as strengthening the infrastructure and integration of communications networks and information systems with the conventional network to optimize its use.

Thanks to these initiatives, the quality of Naturgy’s electricity supply rose by 22%, with 39.8 minutes of TIEPI (Equivalent Interruption Time of Installed Power) in 2018, standing as a European leader in terms of quality of supply.

For more information, check Energía16

See also: Naturgy becomes the Spanish Hydrogen Association first promotional partner

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