UAVs Assume the Most Dangerous Work

How can drones help society? Let me count the ways. For the linesmen who have to climb power-transmitting pylons in remote areas, this invention will be a lifesaver. Why climb when you can send a drone? This patent application relegates the most dangerous tasks to machines.

Sharper Shape Ltd. of Helsinki proposes to mate ground and airborne units into a lean, mean, surveying machine. Using the latest technology, maintenance of a power line network is simplified, expedited and cheaper. “Power lines need to be monitored from time to time to maintain adequate clearance between their energized conductors and the ground beneath the power lines. […] A tree might grow taller than the power line over a period of time. During a storm, the tree might fall over the power line, thereby breaking the power line and leading to a power failure, a branch of the tree might grow above the power line.” The drone flies to the top of the pylon and takes readings of the nearby trees to see if there is anything that can disrupt the lines. “During a snow fall, the branch might bend over the power line, due to heavy load of snow collected over the branch.”

The patent application discloses “a system for monitoring a power line. The system includes a ground unit and one or more airborne measurement devices associated with the ground unit. […] Traditionally, power lines have been monitored by on-site manual inspection. Such manual inspection often provides inaccurate results, as it is ground-based and is unable to cover upper structures of power pylons and/or crowns of trees. Moreover, manual inspection is expensive and time-consuming.”

“It is desirable that an accurate monitoring of the power line be performed from time to time, to mitigate risks posed by the encroaching vegetation and other objects, such as man-made structures and buildings.” “The system is configured to combine use of Mobile LiDAR and use of visible, near-infrared, infrared and ultraviolet imaging systems such as still photography, video or high speed video camera from the UAV. This combined use allows the collection of images of tops of the poles for quality checking, and the position of tree tops from the images. Images can be converted to point clouds having x,y,z information using conventional dense-matching techniques. When these data is combined with Mobile LiDAR capable to extract the terrain model, position and alignment of trees, diameters, and stem curves of trees, species of trees, dead standing trees, poles, power lines, pylons, buildings and other manmade infrastructure, roads, and other potentially interfering objects, a complete inventory of the power line area can be conducted with this system. The UAV can land to the ground unit for the change of the battery, for getting more fuel, or to be replaced by another UAV.”

Claim 1 is narrow but efficient:

A system for monitoring a power line, the system comprising:

  • a ground unit;
  • and one or more airborne measurement devices for measuring distances between the power line and objects spatially located in proximities of the power line, each of the one or more airborne measurement devices comprising:
  • a computing hardware;
  • one or more cameras for capturing images;
  • and a data memory for storing a pattern-recognition software that, when executed on the computing hardware, is configured to process the images to identify a unique identifier attached to the ground unit;
  • wherein each of the one or more airborne measurement devices maintains a line-of-sight with the ground unit during flight by tracking with computer vision the unique identifier attached to the ground unit.



US Patent Application No: 20150131079

Filed (US Prov): Nov. 8, 2013

Published: May 14, 2015


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