Artificial Intelligence Technology Boosts NYPA Drone Inspection Program

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is significantly improving the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) in-house drone inspection program, allowing transmission lines to be more quickly and thoroughly evaluated and any potential issues that could lead to power failure to be identified earlier, NYPA reported on Nov. 22.

NYPA said the initiative ties in with its strategic priorities involving the development of utilizing innovative energy solutions and digitizing and modernizing grid infrastructure to advance the efficient delivery of clean power statewide.

“Drone technology has the potential to streamline the way we analyze our transmission assets,” said Christina Park, NYPA’s director of asset intelligence solutions, in a statement.

“The proof-of-concept testing showed that using an artificial intelligence-based platform significantly reduced the time required for inspection and analysis,” she said. “Asset images can be analyzed in hours or days rather than months and allow our maintenance groups to prioritize repairs and reduce the potential of failure. This collaboration allows NYPA to leverage new technology to meet its mission of providing reliable, low-cost and clean energy to customers.”

As NYPA builds its comprehensive in-house drone program and uses drone technology to inspect its 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines, the need for a seamless way to manage and analyze the data is critical, it noted.

In 2021, NYPA sought competitive bids and evaluated various vendors in the AI and analytics space for an AI-powered solution to streamline the process of analyzing drone-captured data.

Buzz Solutions, an AI-powered software platform for data management, data processing, anomaly detections, and analytics for power line and grid infrastructure inspections, was selected in the open bidding process.

NYPA said its drone pilots have captured and uploaded thousands of photos to demonstrate how the AI solution can quickly review imagery for efficient and more accurate reports. The system detects faults for transmission and distribution lines and can reduce inspection costs by minimalizing in-person inspections, while helping reduce potentially dangerous situations.

With the new platform, NYPA can analyze each image in a fraction of a second while still providing highly accurate results and obtaining a more comprehensive collection of data.

NYPA’s VISION2030 strategy aims to make NYPA the first fully digital utility by 2030.

Through its growing number of industry partnerships, NYPA hopes to drive the industry toward digital transformation with the adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to track assets, understand high-risk infrastructure areas, prioritize maintenance work orders and reduce risk associated with those locations.