Millions of Europeans rely on an uninterrupted flow of electricity to carry out their daily lives and activities. Maintaining the power grid, identifying potential issues, and addressing them before they cause a major shut-down is essential. However, this is a challenging task, as the power gridline can be in areas that are difficult to reach, especially with the equipment necessary for inspection. Currently, gridlines across Europe are inspected by manned helicopters, creating pollution, and risks for humans involved when trying to reach remote areas.
FuVeX is a spin-off of the Public University of Navarre founded in 2015 with the goal of replacing manned helicopters with long-range drones and thus eliminating human risks and pollution while increasing efficiency. A team of 16 has celebrated a big milestone – they received authorization to perform long-range power line inspections with drones in Spanish, being currently the only company with such a permit.
“The main issue inspecting power lines is capturing high-resolution RGB data as the camera has to point to the power line towers to obtain the required data. The challenge in this project is to develop a system to automatically point the high-resolution camera onboard the drone to the power lines” explains Carlos Matilla, FuVeX CEO.
Their goal is to develop a system that automatically detects and locates power lines using a low-resolution camera connected to the onboard computer. With this information, the system will orientate the high-resolution camera that is gyrostabilized to take high-quality photos of the power lines.
“Power lines are key to societies and their maintenance is being disrupted thanks to AI. However, the main challenge to the application of these technologies is the vast amounts of data needed to train the AI models. With our drones and the system to be developed in ELISE, we want to make the operation efficient so LiDAR, visual and thermal data of power lines can be captured with up to 94% less costs” says Matilla.
For FuVeX, Spain is just the first milestone. “We are working with key partners of the value chain such as Naturgy and Iberdrola to enable the mass deployment of our drones in over 5 million kilometers of European power lines. Our aim is to be the main long-range drone start-up in the EU” adds FuVeX CEO.
More about the ELISE 1st Open call and awarded companies is available here.