Developing New Standards for Drones in the Energy Sector

Developing New Standards for Drones in the Energy Sector

By Energy CIO Insights | Monday, November 25, 2019

In the energy sector drones are adopted at fast pace, but new standards are developed for the application of drone technology.

Fremont, CA: Drone inspections are beneficial for the energy industry as they not only cut costs but also prevent disasters and save lives. Drones eliminate the risk of hazardous climbing, empower decisions of a utility-scale solar farm, and extrapolate from just a sampling of panels to identify systemic problems. They can even preclude putting a manned aircraft in risky situations. The standards under development for drone operations can help increase the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the energy industry.

By developing standards, the drone applications for the energy industry would help drones get used to collect the best-quality data to promote safety and efficiency. Standards might help to drive innovation within the drone industry. However, there are uncertainties regarding

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the standards for drone applications in the energy industry. For solar operations and management inspections, certain accuracy for surveys is required. In contrast, wind turbine inspections are tricky as there is a lack of several acceptable images or minimum resolution for images to detect cracks in a blade. ASME is currently developing two sets of norms for visual inspections using unmanned aircraft as part of the drone standards. These standards separate the amateurs from the professionals.Inspection of power lines and pipelines that cover long distances require a flight that goes beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). The first step toward BVLOS expansion involves the conduction of limited flights in airspace segregated from outside challenges. However, BVLOS operations should be conducted with pipelines and power lines rather than isolating airspace.  ASTM International has formed a committee to create a roadmap for accurate BVLOS operations. UAS traffic management standards could advance energy industry drone applications. To manage the drones to inspect power lines, the management of the traffic in the airspace is essential. In this scenario, remote ID systems would act like electronic license plates that drones could use to identify themselves to remote observers. Recent developments with standards in drone applications for emergencies may lead to proficiency tests for drones and pilots. Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers developed five basic methods to test drone maneuverability. Ultimately, energy-related unmanned aerial vehicles may move beyond repair and replacement activities and perform welding operations.

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