Swedish drone company firm Skyqraft has won a startup challenge called Resilience to Natural Disasters run by Spanish utility Iberdrola.

The challenge was to look for innovative proposals to reduce as much as possible the impacts on infrastructure caused by natural disasters and to minimize the time to restore power for customers.

Skyqraft has developed a drone-powered infrastructure inspection service, managed remotely, to identify risks that could affect power lines and prevent power outages.

Iberdrola said the Stockholm company “offers a high-tech cost-effective solution that has the potential to help make current procedures more effective and secure”.

Sakina Turabali from Skyqraft said winning the challenge “is just the beginning for us. We want to revolutionize the way inspections are done in this industry. We are flying unmanned airplanes using high quality images and 360 videos, inspecting the distribution grid and provide our customers with a risk assessment system using machine learning automatically detecting any threats. 

“Winning this challenge fast forwarded our goal to scale to the US market.”

The team’s proposal included flying over an area in New York State, both before and after a storm. The solution featured 360-degree HD videos and high-resolution images of the assets inspected; An automated map that pinpoints all the inspection information; and faster damage assessment and enhanced images to improve planning and service recovery after a storm.

A pilot phase will last approximately three to six months.

Armando Martínez, director of the Networks Business of Iberdrola Group, said: “Iberdrola is committed to supporting new technologies that improve network reliability and strengthen the electricity system, reducing risks and impacts caused by climate change.

“Storms and severe weather events are ever-increasing, and we supply energy to millions of  people around the world, so we must be constantly looking at new innovations. We are looking to explore new ways of partnering with start-ups to foster open innovation in Iberdrola. The Skygraft concept has great potential and we look forward to working with them.”

A total of 148 entries were received from 131 startups in 24 countries. Although the main market at which the initiative is aimed is the US, proposals were received from around the world: 43 from the US, 13 from Spain, 10 from the UK, 48 from the rest of Europe and 17 from the rest of the world.

Agustin Delgado, chief innovation and sustainability officer at Iberdrola, said: “We have been thoroughly impressed by the quality and quantity of the innovative ideas submitted. Even though we can only select one winner for this competition, we think there is great potential in many of the submissions, and we are following up with a number of the entrants to discuss their ideas further. New concepts are being developed every day that are helping to make grid networks smarter and more robust, ultimately to the benefit of customers.”