Aerial surveys and power line inspection by GeoPRAS

Company: Geocart S.p.A.

Website: www.geocart.net

Address: Viale del Basento 120, 85100 Potenza, Italy

Contact: Raffaele Santangelo (Tel: +39 0971 56671, r.santangelo(at)geocart.net)

 

Company Profile:

Geocart S.p.A. is an Engineering Company, a medium-sized enterprise based in Potenza (Italy), which provides technical services in the following sectors: Earth Observation, Environment, Civil Protection, Energy, Information and Communication Technology, Civil Engineering.

Since the early Nineties, the Company has been providing satellite image processing and spatial data refining-modeling services coming from terrestrial and aerial mapping, by using traditional and innovative techniques and instrumentation.

Geocart offers services and provides products that respond to national and international advanced marketing needs and relevant challenges, designing and carrying out innovative solutions and tools for surveying the territory, monitoring the environment and detecting the infrastructures anomalies.

In particular, the Company provides aerial remote sensing surveys by installing single-sensors or multi-sensors platforms on both helicopters and fixed wings aircrafts. The airborne platforms, named CIRO and MAPPING, integrate several sensors: a full waveform laser scanner, a system of hyper-spectral sensors (VNIR, SWIR), a thermal camera and one or more high resolution digital cameras and video-cameras.

Geocart in a Nutshell:

The Company is constantly working to research and develop new sensing tools and platforms and new survey techniques, as well as to always achieve better results from remote mapping and data monitoring and processing, as we firmly believe in the potentiality offered by new technologies.

 

Use Case:

Current status:

The challenging use case of interest concerns the AERIAL SURVEYS & POWER LINE INSPECTION for supporting maintenance and asset inventories & geopositioning activities.

Geocart has proven experience and a complete know how in the aerial surveys for networks and power line monitoring and detection. Power line monitoring allows to minimize risks and prevent any damage and technical problems. Therefore, it is important to adopt the right methodology and the highest accuracy of data acquisition activities.

Since 2001, Geocart has carried out networks monitoring activities implementing innovative and adaptable airborne platforms installed on helicopters, on behalf of ENEL SpA for the monitoring and aerial inspection of electric power lines and power stations in the regions of central and southern Italy and major Islands. Till now, our Company has inspected more than 400.000 km of MV power lines by equipped helicopters. Since last four years, Geocart is carrying out aerial surveys using innovative technologies, by integrating a high-resolution laser scanner, also for data acquisition on HV power lines of TERNA SpA Company.

In order to perform efficient power line inspection by helicopters, Geocart is using two different airborne systems for the AERIAL SURVEYS & POWER LINE INSPECTION, named CIRO (acronym for Computer Integration for Remote Observation) and MAPPING.

CIRO is a system that integrates digital video shooting with GPS satellite geo-referenced techniques: the shots are entrusted to a set of digital video-cameras operating in the visible and in the IR with flexible performances according to the requested applications; a pointing and maneuvering system controls the lenses movement, and a refinement and visualization system provides the management and the storage of video-data and GPS positioning. This device allows the surveying and monitoring of technological networks, linear infrastructures, and natural components. GEOAnalyzer software has been specifically developed for processing and connecting GPS and video data.

Computer Integration for Remote Observation (CIRO)

The Geocart's Airborne Multi-sensors Platform, named MAPPING, is an installable system both on helicopter and fixed wings aircraft including:

  • a GPS + Inertial Measurement Unit system;

  • a full waveform laser scanner;

  • one or more high resolution digital cameras;

  • a digital thermal camera;

  • two hyper-spectral heads operating in VNIR and SWIR.

Airborne Multi-sensors Platform (MAPPING)

The Inertial Measurement Unit and the laser scanner can be considered as an added value compared with the ClRO System. The collected and processed laser dataset is an important resource in terms of accuracy.

All the MAPPING system devices are placed on a special structure with forced slots to guarantee an extreme stability of the relative precision positioning sensors. The Laser Scanner RiEGL and the metric digital camera H39 DIGICAM integrated into the MAPPING platform allow an optimal data acquisition able to perform flights at the appropriate direction, speed and altitude in order to ensure the most adequate coverage of the survey scope. System calibration plays a fundamental role for the final products accuracy. The Full Waveform laser scanner provides a detailed characterization of the targeted survey by the on-line digitizing of the response echoes and the offline analysis of the whole recorded waveform (Full Waveform Analysis). This approach is particularly effective for complex surveys, for instance in the presence of vegetation.

The power line monitoring services, performed by the CIRO and MAPPING platforms installed on helicopters, allows:

  • The identification in near real-time of the network anomalies linked to their geographic coordinates;

  • Asset inventory of the power line components;

  • To carry out the digital cartography and network drawings updating;

  • To verify the position of components represented in network graphs compared with the real position;

  • User friendly queries about data acquired and navigation, on GPS trace, visible and thermal images and 3D models of the power line by using commercial software and/or Geocart' SW application GEOViewer that allows the simultaneous visualization of acquired data, according to client needs;

  • The data transfer of surveyed network anomalies to the palmtops.

Thanks to the wide range of airborne sensors used during the same flight, we are able to deliver the following products: classified LiDAR cloud points, DTM and DSM, orthophotos, cross sections and longitudinal profiles, thermal images, 3D views and movies, digital vector themes.

Motivation:

Within the present call, Geocart intends to build up the GeoRPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems developed by Geocart), a customized drone that integrates the current method of aerial survey and power line inspection implemented by using sensors installed on helicopters.

GeoRPAS has been designed as a system, also based on robotics technologies, able to acquire data and geolocalized images, with a high standard of accuracy otherwise not achievable with field observations by helicopters, to detect anomalies - that is, to classify and codify the precise components of the power networks, such as pillars, trellises, cables, insulators, transformer rooms.

The aim is to extend the detail and the quantity of information provided to the parties interested in power lines maintenance in order to improve measures for reducing the risk of outages.

GeoRPAS will be an open source system that can integrate one or more sensors (connected and interchangeable) e.g. laser scanners, digital cameras and video-cameras, thermal digital cameras and multi-spectral sensors, exploiting the benefits of the increasing miniaturization of the sensors available as prototypes or finished products, At the same time, the system will allow installation of the sensors in different configurations to ensure the best conditions for data acquisition according to customer needs.

Moreover, also having resources to robotic solutions, it will be necessary to develop an interface that connects the navigation control system of the remotely piloted aircraft systems with the installed acquisition system, both for safety reasons and for a higher accuracy of the acquired geolocalisation data.

The following obstacles and causes currently limit the reliability and stability of solutions for aerial surveys and inspections of power lines by means of remotely piloted aircraft systems:

  • The integration of sensors of interest is not yet mature;

  • Today the RPAS on-board navigation systems hardly communicate with the sensors installed on board, making verification of the real efficiency of the "unmanned" systems highly complex;

  • The continuous updating of the sensors makes the verification of the precision of such tools, for which the calibration and usage procedures are missing or deficient, complicated;

  • Required specialized skills for piloting and testing both the unmanned aircraft and the installed sensors;

  • Rules in progress.

Expected Impact:

The expected impacts of the GeoRPAS development are:

  • Definition of an integrated model for aerial surveys and power line inspection by combined use of helicopter and RPAS equipped with multi-sensor platforms.

  • Better safety conditions for the staff involved in the inspections.

  • Complete power line overview for optimizing the maintenance plans reducing the costs of 10%.

  • Monitoring the structural conditions of towers, pylons, and wires/identification of the anomalies and dangerous objects detection.

  • Quick data acquisition, processing, and analysis.

  • Opening new markets in other EU Countries.

  • 15% increase of the present turnover and 10% of the technical staff.

  • Development of a flexible and efficient RPAS able to acquire high accuracy data, detect anomalies and monitor events, not only for power line inspections but also for surveying railways, highways, gas pipeline, coastlines, rivers as well for monitoring areas affected by anthropic and natural risks and emergency conditions.

 

Docuemnt(s):

  • Geocart Presentation for EUROC (PDF)

 

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