Italy power plant deploys automated drone full-time

By Luke Geiver | May 23, 2018

In Italy, a multinational power company had deployed a drone full-time. Enel, an integrated power company in the global, power, gas and renewables markets has acquired a multirotor unmanned aircraft system to support operations and maintenance activities at its Torrevaldaliga Nord plant in Italy.

According to Percepto, developer of the automated drone system, the Sparrow drone will fly in automated mode—under the supervision of an operator who can take control of the device. Italy does not yet allow fully autonomous drone flights.

“While drones are touted as the technology of the future, the ability to act autonomously unlocks their true potential, enabling them to act as a responsible, independent and smart ‘team member’ that provides not only a bird’s-eye view of facilities, but real, actionable insights,” said Dor Abuhasira, Percepto CEO.

At the power plant, the Sparrow will be housed in a self-contained base unit. From the self-contained unit, the drone will launch and land autonomously. Once the drone lands at the base unit, it will charge, transfer data and perform what the company calls, “health checks.” The system is built to withstand heavy rain, snow and dust.

The system features AI technology and carries a dual payload featuring day- and night-vision cameras. Although the system will transfer data while it is docked, it can also provide real-time imagery and other data while in-flight.

Enel said the Nord power plant is the first in the world to use such a drone system. “This cooperation generates positive impacts not only on the overall plant efficiency, but also on our workers, who can now operate the most advanced technologies, acquiring new skills along the way,” said Nicola Rossi, head of innovation at Enel’s global thermal generation.

To see the Sparrow in use at the power plant, click here.