ALPS, known for its in-car electronics components has put together a Done system that can autonomously inspect powerline infrastructure. The drone has highly precise and sensitive sensors, including a Lidar, which is a laser-based radar that provides 3D awareness of what's around the drone. As an upgrade, ALPS is working on adapting an RF (radio-frequency) positioning system that has a 30cm (11-inch) precision instead of the normal 16 feet precision of civilian GPS systems. Power companies like PG&E have tested drone inspections since 2016, and it would typically be used for difficult terrain where it is dangerous and time-consuming (expensive) for human personnel to go. An inspection requires a drone pilot and a supporting team.
Drone technology is expanding and has conquered the great marketplace. For instance, in the construction industry, drones have displayed their potential to assist in building inspections. The numbers of companies are combining drone technology with artificial intelligence software to transform the way inspections and surveys are performed. "We're in the business of making aerial data accessible and useful," says David Morczinek, co-founder of MBA'18. Airworks, an MIT aerial analytics start-up, has provided aerial analytics to the construction industry, and also created the software which converts the aerial data into land surveys.
Skyqraft, a Swedish startup using AI and drones for electricity power-line inspection, has picked up $505,000 in early backing. Leading the round is "startup generator" and investor Antler, with participation from a number of angels including Claes Ekström and Tomas Kåberger. Founded in March 2019 and launched that September, Skyqraft provides what it calls "smart" infrastructure inspections for power-lines. It uses unmanned airplanes, combined with AI, to gather images and detect risk automatically. This is in contrast to the status quo, where power-lines are typically inspected by teams of people and helicopters, which isn't idea on a number of fronts.
H3 Dynamics has partnered with Curitiba-based EPH Engineering in Brazil, a firm that specializes in hydropower design, dam inspections and safety plans, to launch a turnkey dam inspection solution that combines AI-enabled damage assessment and HYCOPTER fuel cell drones capable of flying 3.5 hours at a time. With over 5,000 dams submitted to the Brazilian Dam Safety Plan, and two recent collapse incidents causing more than 300 deaths and major environmental damage, Brazilian authorities have tightened inspection and upkeep requirements in the country. "Many accident reports show that problems were not detected by instrumentation but by visual observation. Drones can help, but due to the large dimensions of these structures we need much longer flight times." Some of the dams are so large that they would require months of battery-powered drone flights to fully scan their surfaces.