Xcel Energy, eSmart Systems and EDM International have announced an artificial intelligence (AI)-based collaborative intelligence project to transform the inspection of the transmission grid and asset management.

During the first phase of the project, 3,300 miles of Xcel’s electricity transmission lines will be inspected to enhance asset information, reduce operational costs and failure rates and extend the life of the company’s assets.

Xcel Energy executive vice-president and operations group president Kent Larson said: “Xcel Energy’s work on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with our numerous partners demonstrates that collaboration benefits customers, the economy and the environment.

“Our company is an industry leader in using UAS technologies for transmission and distribution line inspections. We look forward to working with eSmart Systems and EDM to improve the safety and reliability of the energy grid.”

As part of the collaborative intelligence approach, Xcel will implement eSmart’s AI-based analytics system in its business processes to analyse imagery data of transmission assets collected by its UAS and manned helicopters.

EDM’s subject matter experts will then validate the data to prioritise transmission line operations, identify defects and update the information in Xcel’s asset management systems.

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The companies expect the project to serve as an alternative to manual grid inspection practices.

eSmart Systems founder and CEO Knut HH Johansen said: “We see this project as helping utilities to practically bridge the gap in the transition from today’s largely manual processes to the world that leverages digital technology such as AI and UAS images for grid inspection and asset management.”

In September 2019, Xcel Energy entered an agreement with Itron to secure smart meters for installation across its system.

The agreement created a new partnership with Itron to develop smart technology for the energy grid and provide customers with more insight into their energy use while improving grid reliability and outage response time.