Heliwest launches first in Europe a multiplatform solution using drones and helicopters

Commercially available now as a first in Europe, a multi-platform powerline inspection solution utilizing latest technology

 Heliwest and Sharper Shape have jointly commercialized as a first in Europe a highly optimized operational model which combines the use of helicopter and drone for powerline inspections.  Remarkable time and cost savings can be realized for electrical transmission and distribution network asset owners, because the latest hardware- and automated analysis software enables actionable reports to be produced within a week of the inspection flight.

Requirements for the availability of electricity are continuously growing as regulators set up new rules, while simultaneously the tolerance for interruptions diminishes for both industrial and private users.  Powerline inspections and vegetation management using traditional methods are increasingly expensive and lengthy, so new innovations are urgently needed.

“By combining the best features of the helicopter and the drone, we can provide powerline operators with an efficient way to perform inspections, being less dependent of weather conditions than a single technology. Operating with two different types of aircrafts makes it possible to check the lines over a longer distance in a shorter period, ” tells Heliwest Development Director, Jan-Erik Luther.

The unique hardware- and software technology developed by Sharper Shape enables to combine, visualize, manage and analyze automatically large amounts of data independently of the aircraft used.  The information needed for planning the maintenance work is available within a week, while using legacy solutions the processing time is typically from six to even twelve months requiring large amounts of manual work by professionals.

“We have a fully automated process for managing large data sets, from collection to analysis.  The heart of our innovation is the market’s only fully-integrated sensor system with a cloud-based application, which produces rapidly ready-to-use recommendations for what to repair and even in what order.” says the Sales and Marketing Director Janne Jussila from Sharper Shape.

Economical multi-platform operations

When inspecting long straight lines or in difficult terrain or in especially large projects the efficiency of the helicopter is overwhelming.  If you need to have fast situation awareness for example after a storm, the helicopter is the obvious selection.  The drone is the best choice when there are a lot of data collection points within a short distance or the environment is dangerous, dirty or confined.

BVLOS-operations (Beyond Visual Line of Sight), have in Finland own reserved airspace, which enables the use of autonomous drones in powerline inspections. The benefit is that the machine makes significantly less navigation mistakes while on top of the lines, and the delays between flights are shorter.  In turn, Finnish national regulations sometimes restrict drone flights near airports and land borders, where helicopter flights are allowed.

“Thanks to the multi-platform solution line inspections can be done now more efficiently.  With correctly scheduled and prioritized maintenance work electricity companies can save significant costs.  We believe that the multi-platform operation will be well received in the Nordic and elsewhere in Europe, ” summarizes Jan-Erik Luther.


An unbeatable end-to-end solution

Sharper Shape’s sensor system includes all key modern survey- and detection technologies such as LiDAR, still and HD video cameras, thermal camera and UV-detector with a payload computer system taking care of all data management and sensor control during operation. The data is pre-processed during the flight decreasing significantly the time needed for analysis after the flight.

However, only the transformation of the large amount of collected data to information makes it usable. This is the task for Sharper Shape’s software that creates an easy to understand three-dimensional overall view of the transmission and distribution network and the possible causes of problems, such as tree branches too close to lines or damages of the wires’ insulations.  The software also produces a variety of reports with priority classifications of recommended repairs.

Remote piloted aircrafts, commonly known as drones, have been on the market already for several years, but their usability for powerline inspection has not been exploited due to two main issues: short flight time and short operating range.  The Sharper Shape drone system uses integrated IP-based telemetry solution, supporting simultaneously point to point and multi-channel LTE based control and communication systems. This multi-redundant communications system has been developed from the ground up to make the Sharper A6 the first drone designed for BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) inspections. Performing safe, autonomous long distance flights is the true key for efficient operations.