There can be no doubt that Vienna-based Schiebel is a company with a heart. Founded in 1951, it has built its reputation on its work in mine detection and its innovative CAMCOPTER® S-100 UAS (Unmanned Air System), which recently helped locate and rescue refugees on desperate voyages across the Mediterranean.
It is a particularly strong actor in the maritime sector. Now the company is waiting to see if new regulations might facilitate more business in the power and utilities sector.
The company originally started out by producing electronic devices, including a line in mine detectors, where it became a world leader in the 1990s. Martin Komarek, Head of PR, Marketing and Multimedia at Schiebel told Power Engineering Inernational that their expansion into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) evolved from there.
“We began to look at how we could become more effective in looking for mines and the idea was formed of going from the air, and so we developed our first UAV, which came into the market in 1995 so our experience extends over two decades now.”
The CAMCOPTER® developed by the company is adaptable to any industry, with the ability to incorporate any new sensors coming on to the market, opening up new fields of application all the time.
“We did a lot of search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea for three years, and we detected around 30,000 poor souls transiting from Africa to Europe. We coordinated medical aid to them. We were also involved in monitoring in the Ukraine for two years.”
While there are obviously different criteria involved to the demands of power and utilities, nonetheless the technology is adaptable to the sector, as Schiebel has already demonstrated.
“In the utility sector, I can point to two particular examples – one for an Austrian power provider and one for a power operator in New Zealand.”
“In June 2011, we did power line surveillance demonstration for the power line company in Upper Austria. We used a daylight infra-red camera to detect damage in the power lines and to evaluate the vegetation situation. In New Zealand in October 2013, we used a Corona 350 Camera, which is especially designed for power line inspection. This camera is able to survey temperature and uses ultraviolet to look for corrosion as well.”
“The feedback we received was excellent,” says Komarek.
The Austrian project involved the use of the company’s CAMCOPTER® S-100 in inspecting 110kv overhead transmission lines in the Schwarzensee region.
Despite customer satisfaction, the company’s progress in the sector has been limited so far, confined by regulation, which is why management are eagerly monitoring the changes in the rules in various jurisdictions, which could facilitate their greater involvement.
“We are currently in an active approval process with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Upon positive conclusion, a whole range of new civil applications will become accessible for us.”
Schiebel’s pedigree looks like it would make an ideal companion for the offshore wind power industry, acknowledges Komarek.
“There are many things we are currently looking at and it is an opportunity of course,” he says. “We have customers all over the world and 300 systems on the market at the moment. We do a lot of maritime operations and a lot of our customers are navies because we can operate from very small ship decks with minimal logistic footprints and automatically land on these ships even in the roughest weather conditions – maritime is our home more or less.”
Another facet that will appeal to utilities is the company’s ability to offer an end-to-end solution. All of the company’s software is developed in-house by its considerable research and development team, and they can provide analytics and reporting, to cater across the spectrum of projects.
“We have a total of 240 employees and customer support and flight operations take up 35-40 of that number. In terms of our investment in R&D, we re-invest 20 per cent of our turnover into it and over the last ten years our engineers worked to continuously improve our offering.”
Komarek is enthusiastic about the evolution of the technology being deployed in UAV operations.
“LiDAR are very impressive systems with flights capable of providing 3D graphics over a huge area in a short period of time, generating point clouds out of that, which can tell you a huge amount about the vegetation surrounding a power line for example. You can use that for a huge variety of different applications and use cases and combine a range of different sensors.”
Schiebel will continue to monitor legislation announcements for now, with a view to increasing its presence in the sector in the near future.
VIDEO PROFILE CASE STUDIES
Schiebel in New Zealand
Schiebel in Austria
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