business applications

Maintenance and recovery of high voltage electricity transport systems

  • ActivityFeasibility Study
  • Closing date02 September 2013

The ITT for a feasibility study towards services for “Maintenance and recovery of high voltage electricity transport systems” (AO7564) is now out, and will close on September 2nd 2013. The ITT documents can be downloaded from EMITS, under the “Open ITT section”.

The objective of the study is to evaluate the added value, the technical feasibility and the commercial viability of services combining space and non-space assets for the improvement of maintenance and recovery of high voltage electricity transportation infrastructure, and to specify a viable and sustainable integrated solution to support electricity transmission operators, distribution operators and/or providers of infrastructure inspection services.

Electricity networks are the critical infrastructure that contributes most to the continuity and well-being of society. Not supplying electricity greatly affects consumers; it also results in revenue losses for electricity producers, transmission operators and distribution operators. One estimates that the total welfare and cost to the European Economy caused by a failure of electricity networks is approximately 36 billion euros per annum. High Voltage electricity transport networks are sensitive. Improving electricity supply continuity requires careful maintenance and efficient recovery.

The feasibility study is aimed at addressing the needs expressed by the user communities. In particular, reference users indicated two major groups of needs:

  1. First they need to increase the rapidity and performance of the damage detection process, so they can trigger recovery actions where it is needed, when it is needed, and with appropriate resources. The underlying objective is to increase the continuity of supply, and hence to reduce revenue losses, to reduce penalties applied by major clients, and to meet legal obligations.
  2. The second need is to ameliorate the quality and cost efficiency of the inspection and monitoring process, for what concerns power lines, corrosion of towers and vegetation hazards. Enhanced efficiency would improve preventive maintenance (and in turn supply continuity) without increasing costs.

Primarily three space enabled capabilities are deemed relevant for integration into the potential services:

  • Earth Observation data: SAR polarimetry, SAR interferometry or optical stereoscopic imagery could be used to identify and localize damaged towers and characterize the incurred damage. In addition, SAR or (stereoscopic) optical imagery may prove appropriate to estimate the distance of vegetation to the electricity transmission infrastructure. Satellite imagery may also be used to generate Digital Elevation Models (DEM) by photogrammetry (radar grammetry) of stereo paired optical (radar) images. DEMs can be instrumental to the navigation of aerial systems, the capture of data and the retrieval of information.
  • GNSS signals: GPS receivers can be used in pairs or in groups to measure relative distances and infer the deformation of infrastructure elements. GNSS signals can also support the performance and efficiency of aerial inspections, e.g. geo-referencing of infrastructure elements, aircraft navigation and attitude control, sensor steering / pointing, geo-referencing of acquired images.
  • Satellite communication may link in-situ or airborne sensors for real time access to data; it can also enable Beyond Line of Sight Command and Control of aerial platforms.

In addition space robotic technologies may be of interest in the context of mobile robots assessing the infrastructure elements by close inspection. Data processing algorithms (e.g. for data compression or anomaly detection) developed by the space industry may also prove useful. The management of risks from extreme events would likely benefit from weather forecasts enhanced by assimilation of space-borne data.

The study will define the most appropriate system architecture to fulfil user requirements, and investigate its technical feasibility and business viability.