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Key facts

  • 29k sq km coverage
  • 250 shafts and tunnels
  • 60 metres underground

Customer Challenge

UK Power Networks is the UK’s largest electricity distribution business, supplying power to more than 8.3 million homes and businesses across London and the east and south east of England.

The company has more than 100 shafts and 150 tunnels housing its critical power distribution assets. Classified as confined spaces, the shafts and tunnels are inspected manually, with inspectors descending sometimes to a depth of 60 metres underground to check the conditions of the assets.

This is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process, so UK Power Networks commissioned Enzen to deliver an alternative solution. The challenge was to reduce risk, improve safety, capture quality data, centralise inspection data, improve asset performance and reduce service disruptions.

Our Solution

Enzen developed a drone-based aerial asset inspection solution, trialled at two separate UK Power Networks sites in London.

The concept saw Enzen deploy lightweight drones in the sites’ shafts and tunnels, operated by trained drone pilots. The drones inspected the assets and gathered an all-inclusive view of their condition through a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.

When the data was collated, Enzen analysts verified, processed and stored the information through a web-based platform designed specifically for the operations and maintenance of utility assets.

Drones are usually deployed above ground. These new drones were developed to work specifically underground in shafts and tunnels. The lightweight drones were built with a patented protective shield to prevent damage while moving underground. Other features included signal enhancers to improve communications underground and thermal cameras to determine any water seepage in the structures.

In addition, the portal solution combined a geo-coded blueprint to be integrated with the drone feed and inspection recording. This provides clear linking of drone footage to the blueprints, metadata and textual comments, thus enabling easier follow-up and interventions.

Outcomes delivered

After the successful trial, UK Power Networks is now considering rolling-out Enzen’s solution across its network. The project has the potential to make UK Power Networks more efficient, responsive and enhance the quality of its infrastructure.

More importantly, it will deliver greater value and reliability for consumers, an excellent example of Enzen fulfilling its company purpose to make energy more accessible, sustainable and affordable for all.

The benefits of the drone-based Digital Asset Inspection solution include:

  • Quicker, reliable and safer data capture
  • Improved and enhanced inspection process
  • Improved asset management practices
  • Increased inspection frequency for assets
  • A centralised repository of inspection data
  • Greater integration with the work management and asset registry
  • Improved predictive maintenance
  • Reduced service disruptions
  • Reduced power losses.

Published: 3 Feb 2020

Last updated: 4 Feb 2020