3DE - 3D Energy – Geospatial Predictive Maintenance Platform for the Critical Infrastructure Sector

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Objectives of the service

Title: 3DE Overview Infographic

Image credit: GeoAerospace Ltd. Project :3DE

3DE utilises remote sensing technologies (satellite, aircraft and drones) combined with machine learning techniques to improve predictive maintenance work practices in the critical infrastructure sector, specifically addressing issues such as vegetation encroachment and structural defects.

Maintaining linear infrastructure involves routinely scheduled visual monitoring and inspection, which is time-consuming, expensive and often hazardous. This preventative approach focuses on the age of the asset and predetermined maintenance schedules and as a result, the asset can fail during inspection cycles, leading to increased repair costs and serious risk to public safety. Any geospatial technologies and computational workflows that can help predict issues before they occur can therefore reduce cost, time and risk overheads.

A typical issue for network managers is maintaining a safe distance between powerlines and vegetation in both urban and rural environments. Any intrusion on this network supply is not only a major health and safety issue but also poses a risk to the essential supply of electricity to the community. Using remote sensing technologies to digitize the network and build a ‘digital twin’ of the asset has multiple benefits:

  1. Provides greater situational awareness for planning any necessary maintenance work i.e. maintenance crews can assess the on-site conditions remotely before going to the location, thus reducing overall risk to personnel.
  2. Combining digital twins with vegetation growth rate models enables targeted maintenance work to be carried out in fault zones where vegetation intrusions are predicted.

Changing from traditional forms of preventative inspection/monitoring to an automated, predictive approach involves a significant shift in management practices and operational procedures. As such, a greater understanding of the existing work practices and proposed solution is critical to implementing change, hence the need for detailed feasibility studies.

Users and their needs

The service is initially targeted at energy infrastructure network operators and maintenance service suppliers, with the longer term aim to target the transport sector (rail and road) focusing on European and North American markets.

The primary target users (transmission and distribution managers) are responsible for the overall management of the assets, whilst the secondary users (maintenance service suppliers) are responsible for maintaining the network and can include engineers, vegetation and integrity managers and survey companies.

The maintenance of these linear assets is not only an Irish problem but one that is replicated in the utility sector around the world. Irrespective of where the asset is located, be it South America or Asia, the inherent characteristics and components of powerlines, gas pipelines, roads, railway lines are the same. 3DE therefore aims to address the problem and test the solution with industry collaborators locally in Ireland, with the long term aim to offer this geospatial service to utility companies around the world.

Service/ system concept

3DE is an intuitive, highly versatile geospatial data and information services hub which enables users to:

  • Acquire spaceborne data over an area of interest or book an airborne survey anytime, anywhere via drone or light aircraft
  • Analyse spaceborne/airborne data with easy to use and customisable mapping and analysis tools
  • Design and code automated workflows to produce client specific information services e.g. machine learning workflow to detect and highlight defective conductors
  • Provide tools and information services on cloud-based platforms or adapted to integrated with client’s own existing inhouse asset management systems
  • Share data with team members in the cloud or download and view offline
  • Generate reports and work orders to enable maintenance crews to be deployed locally at the relevant asset to carry out repair work on predicted faults

The 3DE system architecture will enable inputs from Satellite Earth Observation (SatEO) data (e.g. Copernicus Sentinel1 & 2, LandSat) which determine where and when aircraft/drones should be configured, deployed and operated over linear surface networks e.g. energy and transport corridors (electricity, gas, road & rail). This initial macro scale assessment therefore reduces the need to locally assess areas of least concern at a micro scale.

The introduction of a novel computational architecture will underpin the analysis of satellite data at a macro scale. This will be supported by a system for targeted management of these assets based on a reinforcement machine learning framework which aims to dramatically reduce the need for drone operators (micro/local scale assessment).

There are two key components to the proposed system architecture:

1. Geospatial Information services

  • Acquisition, ingestion, storage, processing, analysis, visualisation and reporting
  • Project Management for clients

2. Introduction of new sensor & AI technology

  • LiDAR & optical image datasets
  • ML workflows (mark-up/labelling, training dataset libraries, training models/prediction & data quality)

Title: 3DE Workflow Diagram

Image credit: GeoAerospace Ltd. Project : 3DE

Space Added Value

SatEO’s strategic role will be assessed to determine its viability/usefulness in a number of specific tasks such as:

  • Sentinel2 to provide preliminary regional scale data on vegetation growth and recent development in close proximity to ROW
  • Examine role (availability/cost) of 3rd party missions to source Very High Resolution data
  • Build-up a valuable time-series of SatEO data to determine patterns of growth/development and help with predictions
  • Species mapping i.e. Semantic Segmentation for accurate species mapping and land-use classification
  • Identify vegetation encroachment, construction, and ground movement/motion over client specific timescales
  • Identify and target areas where higher resolution data is required from drones/aircraft
  • Top down data driven approach could yield significant cost savings and efficiencies to the client leading to more targeted, justified, micro scale data acquisition

The introduction of remote sensing technologies aims to introduce improved work practices:

  • Remote data collection can be highly automated, rapid, data driven, nonintrusive & accurate
  • Macro scale assessment saves time i.e. introduce satellite (Copernicus Sentinel-1 & Sentinel-2) for macro-scale, regional assessment, monitoring providing temporal & spatial overview of the entire network
  • Subsequently micro scale platforms deployed locally i.e. aircraft and drones for targeted inspection where its most needed
  • Ultimately this can lead to a reduction in human error, risk and cost

Current Status

The activity kick-off occurred in early June 2020 and user needs and requirements are currently being identified through ongoing discussions with utility providers in Ireland. Dedicated workshops and targeted interviews are planned for later in the summer, in addition to a review of the existing market size.

Image: GeoAerospace 3DE Geospatial Data Viewer

Image credit: GeoAerospace Ltd. Project : 3DE

Image: 3DE SatEO (Sentinel-2 & Lansat 6) data utlised as part of macro-scale infrastructure assessment

Image credit: GeoAerospace Ltd. Project : 3DE

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 09 July 2020 - Created: 09 July 2020