Endesa has deployed a total of 14 drones in Spain to inspect their electricity lines. These drones will be used in all the areas where Endesa has overhead power lines: Catalonia, Andalusia, Aragon, the Balearic and Canary Islands. The use of these unmanned aerial vehicles will complement the helicopter inspections that are currently undertaken, especially when inspecting areas with difficult access. This will support the work done by the technicians thereby improving their safety in performing inspection tasks.
In Catalonia, a total of 7 drones have been working since 2013, with excellent results thanks to their high quality recordings. Their use speeds up inspections as the work of the technicians on the grid is reduced, in turn reducing the need to cut the supply. It also improves the quality and continuity of the service, at the same time as offering greater safety to the workers that perform the inspections.
After the good results obtained in Catalonia, Endesa is starting the process of training the pilots of the 7 drones that will be available to inspect the rest of the lines in Spain, which are expected to be fully operational by June.
The company also plans to participate in technical development projects that will see the drones equipped with robotic arms in order to perform light work.
Endesa will also use the unmanned aircraft to check the condition of the safety corridors located beneath the overhead power lines, which act as firebreaks. The drones can also be used to make aerial surveys of these areas in an emergency.
These devices are able to take off and land on their own using electrical propulsion, and they can automatically maintain a constant position and height thanks to their GPS and barometric control systems. As an extra safety measure they also incorporate a system that, in case of signal loss, automatically returns the unit to its starting point.
These remotely controlled devices are equipped with high-resolution cameras and thermal imagers. They weigh around four kilos and are some 75 centimetres in diameter, including their rotor blades, of which they can have four, six or eight. In order to guarantee the quality of their images the cameras on the drones used by Endesa are equipped with gyroscopic stabilisers that allow sharp, high quality images to be taken of the power lines.