Xcel Energy, eSmart, drone maker partner on AI-powered system

By eSmart Systems | February 05, 2020

ESmart Systems, Xcel Energy and EDM International have announced the first phase of a strategic initiative to deploy AI-based collaborative intelligence for 3,300 miles of Xcel’s transmission lines to dramatically improve inspection processes with the goals of improving asset information, reducing operational costs, decreasing failure rates, and extending asset life. The collaborative intelligence approach will allow Xcel to adopt eSmart’s AI-based analytics into their existing business processes, to analyze imagery data of transmission assets collected by Xcel’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and manned helicopters and validated by EDM’s subject matter experts, to prioritize transmission line operations, identify defects, and update asset information in Xcel’s asset management systems.

"eSmart Systems is pleased to partner with EDM to bring its Collaborative Intelligence approach to help Xcel Energy use UAS data collected by Phoenix Air Unmanned. We see this project as helping utilities to practically bridge the gap in transition from today’s largely manual processes to the world that leverages digital technology such as AI and UAS images for grid inspection and asset management," said Knut Johansen, CEO and founder of eSmart Systems.

"Through this partnership, we will significantly improve the speed, safety, accuracy and cost of power grid inspections and deliver value by updating information on critical infrastructure assets. The utilization of our Collaborative AI enables us to transform today’s inspection practices by delivering enhanced mission critical information with reduced risk," said Steve Hambric, president of North America Operations at eSmart Systems.

The collaborative intelligence approach efficiently and reliably combines the human intelligence of EDM’s T&D subject matter experts with AI-based analytics by eSmart Systems to analyze aerial images captured by UAS and manned helicopters. This project is seen as a key linchpin transitioning from today’s manual grid inspection practices to a process that uses the optimal combination of humans, AI and aerial images to more efficiently inspect grid systems, reduce failure rates, and extend asset life.

"Xcel Energy's work on unmanned aircraft systems with our numerous partners demonstrates that collaboration benefits customers, the economy and the environment,” said Kent Larson, executive vice president and group president of operations for Xcel Energy. "Our company is an industry leader in using UAS technologies for transmission and distribution line inspections. We look forward to working with eSmart Systems and EDM to improve the safety and reliability of the energy grid."