A hydrogen-powered drone was adopted recently for the first time in northern China’s Shanxi Province to conduct autonomous inspection of 90 km of power lines, a local newspaper reported yesterday.
Shanxi Daily News reported that the operation, the first of its kind by a hydrogen-powered drone, took place in the city of Jincheng.
Drones running on hydrogen possess merits such as eco-friendliness, long range and high tolerance of low temperature. They gather data about power lines in an efficient manner, considerably ease the workload of maintenance personnel and improve their safety when on duty in mountainous areas, the report said.
According to the newspaper, an eVTOL aircraft with a fixed-rotor structure was deployed during the inspection. Thanks to its LiDars and visible light and infrared lenses, the device inspected five substations and eight power lines — with a total length of 80 km — within two hours in the southeast of Jincheng at low temperatures.
Low temperatures and visibility often impair a drone’s performance.
The aircraft also reportedly passed three tests on flight endurance, emergency response timeliness and microwave internet link accuracy, indicating that it is capable of performing more complex tasks.
With the help of this drone, the Jincheng branch of State Grid, the national power supplier, was able to detect safety hazards such as unsheathed lines and wildfires, so as to ensure safe operation of the power grid.
The utility company behind the inspection told media that it would coordinate the inspection work done by fixed-rotor drones, multi-copters, remote video and employees moving forward, to ensure blanket coverage of the entire power supply network, as well as ensure stable power distribution via the trunk line.
What’s more, Shanxi will also build its first provincial drone lab, to explore issues such as the deployment and coverage of repeaters for drone application and better signal transmission.
Drones are widely adopted across Shanxi to patrol power supply facilities and distribution networks. As of press time, the local power grid operator had conducted 37,326 inspections employing drones, during which 970 faults were spotted and solved.
It has become a norm in China for power and energy suppliers to conduct safety checks via drone, quadrobot and other high-tech equipment, especially in inaccessible areas and during holidays.