Accelerating Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Inspections with Drones and Artificial Intelligence
- Jul 7, 2021 6:35 pm GMT
Utilities collect millions of images of their infrastructure to assess equipment health and support reliability investments, but manually reviewing inspection imagery and data is time consuming, subjective, and costly. With the widespread adoption and use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to collect images of T&D infrastructure, the volume of electric power utility imagery has increased exponentially and rapidly outpaced staff’s ability to analyze and evaluate it.
There are AI solutions, however, that utilities can use to automate both collection and review of inspection imagery. While images of healthy assets are significantly more common, certain components – or types of damage to those components – are much less common and, therefore, more challenging to acquire and label, but are some of the most important images for training AI models. Another important part of the process is image classification, and machine learning (ML) models typically need thousands of images per damaged image class. With hundreds – and potentially thousands – of damaged image classes, this could require one million or more images for training ML models, some of which are the rarest and most challenging images to collect.
To efficiently recognize and label T&D components, an extensive database of labeled images is required. EPRI is constructing a curated, labeled industry database of T&D assets that will help mitigate the time-consuming and costly task of reviewing and labeling the imagery. Similarly, generative adversarial networks (GANs) can also be used to generate synthetic images to augment available datasets for training.
Improved inspection and review efficiency will accelerate problem identification, which can facilitate the replacement of damaged assets, providing regulators better documentation, and could improve communications among utility stakeholders – including customers. And all of this will lead to a safer, more reliable, and more affordable electric grid.
EPRI has been working on a concerted effort throughout 2021 to engage the AI community to work with the electric power industry on multiple projects, including this effort to improve T&D asset inspection.
Learn more about the transformative solutions generated by the convergence of artificial intelligence and the electric power industry at EPRI’s AI and Electric Power Summit on September 28-29, link here.
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