Red Eléctrica de España developed two projects in 2017 for the use of drones – remotely piloted aircraft – for the inspection and maintenance of electricity transmission lines, as a commitment of the Company to innovation applied in order to increase the safety and efficiency of these operations. In 2018, the Company will continue working with these devices and its own qualified personnel, completing the inspection of some 500 kilometres of line of the electricity transmission grid.
In order to get these projects underway, the Company has obtained the license as an official operator of remotely piloted aircraft, granted by the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA); and the qualification of the Company’s own personnel as pilots, currently numbering seventeen people; it has also acquired three drone aircraft.
Similarly, in collaboration with the company AeroTools, Red Eléctrica has designed two drone aircraft prototypes with advanced functionalities designed to facilitate the undertaking of the specific inspection works on high-voltage overhead lines.
Among the advanced functionalities added, noteworthy is that of a telemetry system that provides audible information regarding the most relevant data, in addition to displaying it on the control panel, thus allowing the pilot to work without taking his eyes off the drone.
In addition, a communication channel encryption system has been developed to guarantee higher quality and security of information, and an autonomous flight system, by which the device recognises the environment and guides itself around the element being inspected without the intervention of the pilot, therefore reducing flight time and the possibility of error.
Red Eléctrica has conducted a comparative evaluation with other official operators specialised in this type of work in order to analyse the effectiveness and efficiency of different sensors and inspection methodologies before the final implementation of this new operating procedure.