EIC explores use of drones to improve inspection methods across UK networks


The UK’s Energy Innovation Centre (EIC) is analysing the use of modern drone technologies to offer better inspection methods across power generation networks in the country.

EIC’s energy industry partners have collaborated with the UK Department of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Transport Catapult to promote the use of these technologies.

The collaboration aims to determine the characteristics and operations processes of drone technologies. Such knowledge  is essential to facilitate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations to become routine in a wide range of energy network environments.

In November last year, EIC launched a call for innovation, which welcomed proposals from third parties within the organisation’s global innovation community.

The community needs to be capable of offering a programme of work that would increase the current range of drone operations and demonstrate safe flight under BVLOS conditions with CAA approval.

"Drone technology offers huge potential for the networks to increase the efficiency, safety, and minimise disruption to the public."

EIC's technical manager Tony Knowles said: “The quality of the responses to this call for innovation was outstanding. It has created an unprecedented opportunity for companies at the forefront of this exciting new technology to engage with energy network operators who are keen to work collaboratively to adopt drones within their networks.

“Drone technology offers huge potential for the networks to increase the efficiency, safety, and minimise disruption to the public with some of their operations.

“This is a great example of using the call process to allow them to tap into a wealth of third party knowledge that’s out there, while also creating opportunities for small-medium enterprises (SME) to work with the networks.”

Launched in 2014, EIC’s call for innovation received a record number of 21 responses. Seven of these businesses were invited to share their ideas to the partners. The EIC is a not-for-profit innovation organisation that is owned by eight gas and electricity distribution networks in the UK.


Image: Drone technologies may offer improved inspection methods across power networks. Photo: courtesy of Energy Innovation Centre.