Siemens today launched an unmanned aerial vehicle technology that incorporates artificial intelligence “to bring inspection of transmission lines to the next level”.

Called SIEAERO, it was unveiled at European Utility Week in Vienna.

“SIEAERO is a gamechanger in overhead line inspection because we are using digitalization to bring services to the next level,” said Mirko Düsel, chief executive of Transmission Solutions at Siemens’ Energy Management Division.

“Everything from planning and performing inspection flights, managing and analyzing the gathered data, to report generation and long-term data archiving is more cost-efficient with SIEAERO – and it provides better and faster results on top.”

The technology is designed to replace traditional helicopter inspections of overhead lines. Instead, the Siemens’ solution is fixed to a CAMCOPTER S-100 unmanned aerial vehicle supplied by Vienna-based drone company Schiebel.

At a press conference today, Siemens bosses said that SIEAERO uses smart analytics software utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to store, manage and analyze all flight data in one integrated software system.

“To reduce the needed amount of flights and inspection efforts drastically, SIEAERO is using a unique high-resolution multi-sensor-system that can record all needed data in one go,” said Michael Wernlein. “Compared to conventional overhead line inspection, SIEAERO service is fully automated, faster and more precise.”

Siemens has been working with German and Austrian transmission system operators TenneT and APG on the development of SIEAERO since 2016 and has carried out test cases and validation projects.

The UAV carries a high-end multi-sensor system which was specifically developed to meet the complex requirements of overhead line inspections. Siemens said that because all necessary sensors and cameras are combined in one multi-sensor system, all relevant inspection data are recorded in one go.

Wernlein said: “SIEAERO allows not only reducing the time for flight execution and data analysis from weeks or even months to a few days, but also delivers more precise results while using sensors way above industry standard. For example, the 3D LIDAR Sensors used in SIEAERO have 120 dots per m2, while industry standard is roundabout 30 dots per m². More sensor data results in more precise analytics and results.

“Moreover, SIEAERO uses five cameras with 100 megapixels each, while competitors are typically working with one or two cameras and a lower resolution. On top, the SIEAERO multi-sensor system also includes infrared and corona sensors.”

SIEAERO will go to market next March.