National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) has launched trials of a system that will fully automate corrosion inspection of electricity transmission pylons.
This follows a partnership with tech start-ups Keen AI and sees.ai.
The project will use drones flown to gather data, which is then processed using artificial intelligence.
NGET owns 21,900 steel lattice pylons that carry overhead transmission conductor wires in England and Wales.
The condition of these pylons can deteriorate through corrosion – periodic assessments are made to understand the health of the network.
It is estimated that NGET inspects around 3,650 steel lattice pylons each year, capturing high definition still colour images of steelwork using helicopters and manually flown drones.
Currently, these images from drones are captured and processed manually by a pool of inspectors with drone pilots carrying drones to the site of each asset due to be inspected and then keeping them in sight at all times while flying.
The trial of the new technology is expected to reduce the environmental impact of data capture.
Mark Simmons, Conditioning Monitoring Manager at NGET said: “This technology will be vital in the future as we connect more and more renewable and low carbon power, expanding our network and delivering world-class reliability.”