Chitchian: Plan to Use Drones for Power Grid Inspection

Drones can glide over rugged terrain.Drones can glide over rugged terrain.

New technologies are planned to be used to improve the maintenance of power grids, Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said on Wednesday.

"We will use drones and helicopters for inspecting power lines and equipment," Chitchian said on the sidelines of a Cabinet meeting. He did not elaborate.

The planned move comes in the wake of massive dust storms that put the reliability of Iran's power grid system to a severe test this year.

Inspection drones use high-resolution digital cameras as well as ultraviolet/infrared sensors to detect and document damages to transmission towers and equipment. Drones can glide over rugged terrain, where it is hard for utility workers to get around, and send back pictures showing the condition of power lines.

According to reports, a growing number of utility companies in the US and Europe have turned to using the unmanned aerial systems to inspect hard-to-reach equipment.

Southern Khuzestan Province was battered by a prolonged spell of dust storms in winter. The weather condition forced people to stay indoors, shut schools, universities and public facilities and also knocked out power lines in many areas of the oil-rich province. According to reports, some water and wastewater treatment plants sporadically stopped functioning. Experts and environmentalists assert that most of the sources of dust storms, which have become more frequent and intense in recent years, are in neighboring Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

In February, dozens of maintenance crews mobilized for the cleanup of substations and power transmission equipment in at least 13 cities in Khuzestan. Using drones for inspection and maintenance is rapidly gaining traction across the energy industry.

According to reports, oil majors including Statoil, Shell and Chevron are experimenting with drones to drive down costs and carry out potentially risky operations that are carried out by human workers. Manned inspection at oil rigs can take days or even weeks, but experts say drones can do the job in a few days and at considerably lower costs.


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