Grid drones to the rescue!

National Grid will pilot drone-mounted electric field sensors for pylon inspections

Big Zero Report 2022

National Grid and the University of Manchester are collaborating on a £1.1 million project to develop a new system that can inspect overhead transmission line insulators in real time using electric field sensor technology.

The technology will be drone-mountable, allowing for live monitoring of the condition of high-voltage insulators without requiring traditional ground patrols, circuit outages, or lineworkers scaling pylons.

Insulators produce electric fields that can reveal their health, and a purpose-built electric field sensor system can analyse their e-field profiles and assess their condition.

Manchester’s High Voltage Laboratory will be used to test and develop the technology.

The project is expected to save an estimated £2.8 million over a 15-year period through cost and resource efficiencies in transmission network monitoring.

National Grid is also trialling autonomous drones for visual monitoring of pylons and overhead lines.

Nicola Todd, head of strategy and innovation and National Grid Electricity Transmission, said: “We’re increasingly using drones as part of our activities monitoring the condition of our transmission network, and innovations like this e-field sensing system mean there are even more exciting ways that drones could support us in keeping the grid reliable and safe in the future.”

Dr Vidyadhar Peesapati from The University of Manchester said: “With demand increasing, we need to maximise the resilience of overhead lines, the spine of UK electricity.

“The ambition of this project helps us address this challenge while moving the UK one step further towards a low carbon future that ensures reliability and value for the consumer.”

Network with hundreds of businesses and public sector organisations taking bigger steps to net zero. Book your FREE ticket to the Big Zero Show 2023 now. 

If you enjoyed this story you can sign up to our weekly email for Energy Live News – and if you’re interested in hearing more about the journey to net zero by 2050, you can also sign up to the future Net Zero newsletter. 

Latest Podcast