Night-time LiDAR inspection proven feasible by Hepta Airborne

Night-time LiDAR inspection of storm damage proven feasible by Hepta Airborne 

A unique pilot project in Finland by Hepta Airborne, Suur-Savon Sähko, Järvi-Suomen Energia, and ESRI Finland proved the detection of storm damage at night feasible through the use of drones with LiDAR sensors. 

Tallinn, April 29, 2021 – Kilometers of overhead power lines were scanned by Hepta Airborne – infrastructure inspection digitizer – to detect defects, which were created by project partner Järvi-Suomen Energia by felling trees on the lines to mimic the storm damage that occurs during heavy winds. 

LiDAR detection speeds up locating and eliminating damage on overhead powerlines during storms and low-light situations. The results of the project will help shorten electricity outages and improve power service for homeowners in Finland’s lake district and other difficult terrain areas in the Nordics and elsewhere. 

Power outages on middle voltage grids cause thousands of people to lose electricity in their homes during the coldest and darkest time of the year. Difficult terrain and limited daylight make finding and eliminating damage on power lines a challenge for DSOs. Worldwide, the most prevalent method for locating fallen trees on power lines is on foot, skis, or ATVs, which is time-consuming and poses real threats to the safety of the inspection team.

To minimize the distance covered on foot by ground teams, typically, RGB sensor-utilizing drones are used to capture high-resolution photos of the damages. While drones make it possible to cover distances quickly and fly 24/7, the cameras are not sufficient to detect grid damage in low-light situations. An efficient way to overcome the limitations of low light is to use LiDAR sensors that can capture data day and night.

Hepta Airborne’s CEO Henri Klemmer commented: “Deploying LiDAR-equipped drones can significantly improve the efficiency of eliminating grid faults and restoring DSO service during power outages in stormy seasons, especially in areas of challenging terrain with limited daylight in the Nordics. Moreover, LiDAR inspection has a much wider application range, being an exceptional match to any occasion that requires speed in data collection and analysis.”

The tests were conducted on an old overhead power line that was to be replaced by underground electricity cables, 3 km in total, in the most storm damage-prone area. In total, 20 trees were felled on the power lines by the JSE ground team to cause major damage – broken lines and insulators, and severely tilted poles.

Several flights were performed by Hepta Airborne with different types of LiDAR-equipped industrial drones at various altitudes and speeds to find the optimal flight parameters for different types of storm damage. The gathered data provided input for ESRI Finland to develop an algorithm that is able to detect the entirety of any damage and report instantly.

Tomi Öster, the Business Development Manager at Järvi-Suomen Energia commented: “This type of data gathering and analytics is key to benefit from drones on a large scale and put such fast response into operational use. Future plans regarding this inspection method are to get operational benefits next autumn to detect different kinds of disturbances and snow loads during low pressure and thunderstorms.”

The pilot project was brought to life by Hepta Airborne in collaboration with Suur-Savon Sähkö, Järvi-Suomen Energia, and ESRI Finland

About the project team

Suur-Savon Sähkö (SSS) is an energy group in Finland, and the owner of electricity and heat networks in Finland’s lake district – an area filled with numerous lakes and islands. This location offers unique challenges for managing overhead power line grids. The annual impact of SSS to the regional economy is over 100 million euros.

Järvi Suomen Energia (JSE), a subsidiary of SSS, manages 27,000 kilometers of electricity networks to distribute power to over 100,000 customers. Nearly 50 million euros are invested into developing the electricity networks annually. By continuously developing the network, JSE improves the grid conditions in the region.

Hepta Airborne, headquartered in Estonia, provides end-to-end automated grid inspection and analysis solutions for overhead power lines in 11 countries. Starting with drone-based data collection, then analyzing image data with the help of AI in uBird software, and finally delivering the results to the client’s systems.

ESRI Finland offers market-leading GIS solutions to both public organizations and private companies of every size. Their portfolio includes ArcGIS, a solution for damage detection from LiDAR point clouds.

See the video of Hepta Airborne’s pilot project in Finland on YouTube

Contact: Anari Hagel, media advisor


Phone: +372 505 1464


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