National Grid Drones Automated Corrosion Inspection

National Grid dronesNational Grid Drones: company trials automated corrosion inspection of transmission pylons,

By DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) is conducting a trial of a system intended to fully automate the capture and processing of corrosion-related condition assessment data. The system, born out of a collaboration with Keen AIand, deploys automated drones flown Beyond Visual Line of Sight for the collection of accurate data, which is then processed by artificial intelligence.

NGET periodically assesses its extensive network of steel lattice pylons –  used to carry overhead transmission conductor wires – for corrosion and deterioration. NGET inspects roughly 3,650 steel lattice pylons per year, capturing images from helicopters and manually operated drones, which are then manually processed.

The trial of this new system will allow a fleet of autonomous drones to be piloted nationally with authorization from the Civil Aviation Authority and with supervision by remote operators in a secure Remote Operation Centre.

The automation of data capture and processing for these assessments provides numerous advantages, such as enabling the capture of optimal data for automated processing, increasing the speed, efficiency and consistency of data processing, predicting the future state of a pylon and the impact of any maintenance work, and reducing the risk and environmental impact of data capture.

“Maintaining and investing in our transmission infrastructure is critical to a safe and reliable electricity network. Working with innovators like Keen AI and we are able to take real time data and use it to predict when assets on our network need attention,” said NGET Conditioning Monitoring Manager Mark Simmons, the trial’s pioneer. “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. We look forward to the technology complementing the methods we currently use to help our operational teams manage safety, inspections and maintenance.”

“We’ve been hearing for many years now how AI will automate and transform asset management; ultimately leading to reduced asset life cycle costs and a greener, more reliable network. I’m glad that together, we’re making it actually happen,” said Keen AI CEO Amjad Karim. “National Grid has been conducting the end-to-end asset management process for steel lattice towers, from data collection to execution, for many years now and are seen by many as the leaders in this field.  I’m really excited to be using’s autonomous drone tech to collect data which hands off to our systems to automatically assess corrosion and propose maintenance or replacement work.”

“National Grid’s requirement to carry out detailed close-quarter inspection of steelwork and components on the transmission network is a perfect fit for our technology,” said CEO John McKenna. “Equally exciting, their Condition Monitoring team has decades of experience of how this work has been carried out in the past – ranging from data capture using helicopters and manually flown drones, to data processing using humans and machines (working with Keen AI since 2018), to managing the resulting maintenance & repair work. It’s the ideal foundation on which to build. We can’t wait to get started on this project.”

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Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.

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