Del-Air Tech and RTE recently flew a drone beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to inspect an RTE power line and to build models of its European power grid. The flight took place in France.
During the 30-mile flight, a 3G communication network was used to guide the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for the first time in France, according to a news release. Two pilots were used for takeoff and two for landing. GPS data was integrated within the drone, allowing it to fly on autopilot.
“In collaboration with RTE, we used for the first time in France a 3G network to guide the drone, allowing real-time communication from any distance,” said Michael Lagarde, President & Co-Founder of Delair-Tech, according to the release. “This removes an important technological barrier. It is a first step toward making drones the most common method for inspections of infrastructure that stretches over large distances, such as power lines and pipelines. Drones offer enormous potential to deliver strong efficiency gains for our customers.”
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted the companies the right to use a specific flight corridor and defined a clear regulatory framework for the flight.
RTE has experimented with implementing UAS into its operations since 2011. In 2016, the company began using drones more extensively for shorter-range inspections of its electricity transmission network and its cable laying. RTE plans to eventually deploy drones for longer-range missions.
“More flexible to use, the UAV offers a complementary solution to helicopter inspections for network maintenance conducted by the RTE,” said Patrick Bortoli, Director of Maintenance RTE, according to the release. “This first 30 miles BVLOS flight illustrates the RTE’s commitment to constant innovation that contributes to electricity that is safer, cheaper, and more respectful of the environment.”