Above: Helicopter equipped with SIEAERO multi-sensor system

The system collects all the necessary data during the flight, which is subsequently evaluated with the help of AI and other software tools.

The SIEAERO multi-sensor system employs 19 cameras and 3D laser scanning sensors, allowing it to capture all relevant inspection data in a single flight over the power line, resulting in up to 12 000 images per km of power line, plus detailed 3D data. The SIEAERO software can evaluate the images in just a few hours, whereas a human would need a few days, says Siemens Energy.

The artificial intelligence has been previously trained with over two million images of European and North American grids to automatically detect faults, allowing potential risks, such as trees growing too close to the power line to be detected earlier.

During the flights, the surface temperature of the individual components is also measured, among other things.

Every km of power line flown generates 300 gigabytes of data. The SIEAERO system uses this data to create a digital twin, a highly accurate image of the network infrastructure being inspected, including poles, lines, terrain, and vegetation. With the digital twin, network operators can simulate extreme events like a tree falling on a line and causing it to fail and take the appropriate preventive measures.

In the future, the use of large drones rather than helicopters could significantly simplify and improve the inspection process, says Siemens Energy, which has already successfully performed several test flights employing a drone equipped with the SIEAERO system.

Currently, however, most countries still prohibit the use of unmanned aerial vehicles beyond the visual range. As soon as the legal situation permits in these countries, Siemens Energy will also offer SIEAERO as a drone service, the company says.