New AI-powered platform improves accuracy, leveraging data captured by drones to detect faults and anomalies during infrastructure inspections and prevent power failures
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) today announced that artificial intelligence technology is significantly enhancing its internal drone inspection program, allowing transmission lines to be assessed faster and more efficiently. thorough and that any potential problems that could lead to a power failure are identified sooner. The initiative ties into NYPA’s strategic priorities involving developing the use of innovative energy solutions and digitizing and modernizing grid infrastructure to advance the efficient delivery of clean energy across the state.
“Drone technology has the potential to streamline the way we analyze our transmission assets,” said Christina Park, director of asset intelligence solutions for NYPA. “Proof-of-concept tests showed that the use of an AI-based platform significantly reduced the time required for inspection and analysis. Asset images can be analyzed in hours or days instead of months and allow our maintenance groups to prioritize repairs and reduce the potential for failure. This collaboration allows NYPA to take advantage of new technology to fulfill its mission of providing clean, reliable, low-cost energy to customers.”
As NYPA builds out its comprehensive in-house drone program and uses drone technology to survey its 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines, the need for a transparent way to manage and analyze data is paramount. In 2021, NYPA sought competitive bids and evaluated various vendors in the AI and analytics space for an AI-powered solution to streamline the process of analyzing data captured by drones. Buzz Solutions, an AI-powered software platform for data management, data processing, anomaly detection, and analytics for power line and network infrastructure inspections, was selected in the open bidding process.
NYPA drone pilots have captured and uploaded thousands of photos to demonstrate how the AI solution can quickly review images for more efficient and accurate reporting. The system detects faults in transmission and distribution lines and can reduce inspection costs by minimizing in-person inspections while helping to reduce potentially dangerous situations.
With the new platform, NYPA can analyze each image in a fraction of a second while delivering highly accurate results and more comprehensive data collection.
Acceleration of the detection process
Currently, power companies, including NYPA, check the condition of power lines (or some percentage of their lines) annually. Inspectors typically inspect millions of images to capture hundreds of thousands of images of power lines, towers, and surrounding vegetation using drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft. Processing these images involves linemen and engineers manually mapping all of that data together, looking for glitches and failures, and flagging it for in-person inspection. They spend thousands of hours (which can take six to eight months) to turn raw data into actionable data.
However, during this long inspection cycle, a line could easily fail, leading to power outages or fires.
“Human labor is incredibly expensive and is also prone to a higher error rate over time, which is where AI really has the biggest advantage as it continues to improve at scale.” said Vikhyat Chaudhry, co-founder and COO and CTO of Buzz Solutions. “With a reference accuracy of 85%, Buzz PowerAI has great potential to improve and learn from NYPA data sets, leveraging feedback from subject matter experts through our human in-loop tool.”
“AI is not meant to replace human labor as part of the inspection process, but to refocus human skills towards monitoring, maintaining, modernizing, and improving network infrastructure,” Chaudhry continued. “The value of AI at scale is that it becomes stronger, more accurate, and more personalized to each utility’s data set, making inspections more time and cost efficient.”
NYPA’s VISION2030 strategy aims to make NYPA the first fully digital utility by 2030. Through its growing number of industry partnerships, the Power Authority hopes to drive the industry toward digital transformation with the adoption of intelligence technologies Artificial intelligence and machine learning to track assets, understand high-risk infrastructure areas, prioritize maintenance work orders, and reduce risk associated with those locations.
About the NYPA
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is the nation’s largest state public power organization, operating 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines. More than 80 percent of the electricity NYPA produces is clean, renewable hydroelectric power. NYPA does not use tax dollars or state credit. It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and income earned largely through electricity sales. For more information, visit www.nypa.gov or follow us on Twitter @NYPAenergy, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and LinkedIn.
About Buzz Solutions
Buzz Solutions is a Palo Alto-based startup focused on AI-powered improvements to some of the critical inspection tasks utility companies face to maintain high-reliability electrical systems, a problem that is only accelerating as consequence of severe weather and climate change. The company has participated in the StartX and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Incubatenergy® Network programs and is working with utilities in North America. Buzz won the top prize at the Cleantech to Market Symposium at UC Berkeley in December 2021. For more information, visit www.buzzsolutions.co