New York Power Authority deploys AI technology for drone-captured power grid safety analysis – sUAS News – The Business of Drones
New AI-powered Platform Improves Accuracy, Leveraging Drone-captured Data to Detect Faults and Anomalies During Infrastructure Inspections and Avoid Power Failures
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) today announced that artificial intelligence technology is significantly improving its in-house drone inspection program, allowing transmission lines to be more quickly and thoroughly evaluated and any potential issues that could lead to power failure to be identified earlier. The initiative ties in with NYPA’s strategic priorities involving the development of utilizing innovative energy solutions and digitizing and modernizing grid infrastructure to advance the efficient delivery of clean power statewide.
“Drone technology has the potential to streamline the way we analyze our transmission assets,” said Christina Park, NYPA’s director of asset intelligence solutions. “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. This collaboration allows NYPA to leverage new technology to meet its mission of providing reliable, low-cost and clean energy to customers.”
As NYPA builds its comprehensive in-house drone program and uses drone technology to inspect its 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines, the need for a seamless way to manage and analyze the data is critical. In 2021, NYPA sought competitive bids and evaluated various vendors in the AI and analytics space for an AI-powered solution to streamline the process of analyzing drone-captured data. Buzz Solutions, an AI-powered software platform for data management, data processing, anomaly detections, and analytics for power line and grid infrastructure inspections, was selected in the open bidding process
NYPA drone pilots have captured and 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.
With the new platform, NYPA is able to analyze each image in a fraction of a second while still providing highly accurate results and obtaining a more comprehensive collection of data.
Speeding up the Detection Process
Presently, power companies, including NYPA, review the status of power lines (or some percentage of their lines) annually. Inspectors typically inspect millions of images to capture hundreds of thousands of images of power lines, towers and surrounding vegetation using drones, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Processing these images involves linemen and engineers who manually map all that data together, looking for faults and failures and flagging them for an in-person inspection. They spend thousands of hours (which can take six to eight months) to turn raw data into actionable data.
During this lengthy inspection cycle, however, a line could easily go down, leading to power outages or fires.
“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 and COO and CTO, Buzz Solutions. “With a baseline accuracy of 85%, Buzz PowerAI has great potential to improve and learn from NYPA’s datasets, leveraging subject-matter experts’ feedback via our human-in-the-loop tool.”
“AI is not meant to replace human labor as a part of the inspection process, but rather to refocus human skills towards monitoring, maintaining, modernizing and upgrading grid infrastructure,” Chaudhry continued. “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.”
NYPA’s VISION2030 strategy aims to make NYPA the first fully digital utility by 2030. Through its growing number of industry partnerships, the Power Authority hopes to propel the industry toward digital transformation with the adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to track assets, understand high-risk infrastructure areas, prioritize maintenance work orders and reduce risk associated with those locations.
New York Power Authority (NYPA) is the largest state public power organization in the nation, operating 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. More than 80 percent of the electricity NYPA produces is clean renewable hydropower. NYPA uses no tax money or state credit. It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity. For more information visit www.nypa.gov or follow us on Twitter @NYPAenergy, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and LinkedIn.
About Buzz Solutions
Buzz Solutions is a Palo Alto-based startup company focused on AI-based improvements to some of the critical inspection tasks that utilities face in maintaining high-reliability electric systems, a problem which is only accelerating as a consequence of severe weather and climate change. The company has participated in StartX and the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Incubatenergy® Network programs and is working with utilities across North America. Buzz won the top award at the Cleantech to Market Symposium at UC Berkeley in December 2021. For more information, visit www.buzzsolutions.co