Enel's Drones: Energy Seen From Above

Published on Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Enel has an air fleet that flies from Spain to Russia. They are the drones that the Group has started to employ in maintenance and monitoring activities both for distribution grids and generation plants. A considerable number of 'flying machines' which, thanks to their versatility, allow to perform with agility, rapidity and accuracy several control activities that are often complicated by the difficult access to the sites to be inspected and by the high safety risks for employees that up to now had to get there in person.

In Spain Endesa has 14 drones used to inspect electricity lines in Catalonia, Andalusia, Aragona and the archipelagos of the Balearic and Canary islands. Already in 2013 the Group's Spanish company had started to test seven 'flying machines' to monitor the distribution grid and, considering the achieved results, the fleet was doubled and the scope was extended to support inspections that were traditionally performed by helicopter.

The use of drones to control electricity lines is also at the centre of three pilot projects launched in northern and central Italy, focused on monitoring non –accessible points of the grid in case of emergencies due to bad weather and earthquakes, with the aim of localising from above damages suffered by electricity lines and allow operational personnel to reach the site to repair the breakdowns and restore the service.

In Italy Enel has developed a drone that can rapidly and quickly inspect the inside of large boilers at thermal electric plants, thus avoiding expensive scaffolding and minimising costs originating from the days of production downtime. This prototype, completed in three years of research and testing, is remotely controlled and easily reaches burners, pending heat exchangers, tube walls.

From the Federico II plant in Brindisi to the GRES at Reftinsky in Russia, drones allow to optimise 'traditional' inspection costs and considerably reduce the time needed for them. Due to its effectiveness and versatility, the device was tested by Enel in spring also at hydropower plants, where it replaces the climbers used to read the instruments that report the stability of the infrastructure and of nearby civil works. Additionally, at the Torrevaldaliga Nord, next-generation drones are undergoing the advanced studying stage not only for the thermo-graphic monitoring of transformers, electricity lines and fume conducts for the detection of anomalies and losses, but also for the volumetric detection of stocked fuel at the coal storage facility.