Innovation systems and technology are of great importance and significantly contribute to socio-economic development and nation building. Recognizing this, DHI Innotech aims to pursue research, develop ventures, and build national competency in the field of science and technology. Towards that end, Innotech has collaborated with Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) Limited to implement a pilot project that utilizes drones for power maintenance and operation.
Bhutan’s steep and rugged terrain makes the routine maintenance of transmission infrastructure highly difficult, and also poses a huge health risk to field inspectors. Drone technology enables faster scheduled maintenance operation of power infrastructures, including accurate fault inspection using a data analytics platform. As a result, there is significant reduction of cost in routine maintenance. It also promotes safety by minimizing accidents during field inspections.
The main objectives of the project is to build a drone use case for power transmission line monitoring and operations. These include designing, implementing, testing, and operating power utility system. Additionally, the project aims to build human resource capacity to design, develop, and operate the system in power utility use cases.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 1st January 2021 between DHI and BPC to launched the drone project. Once developed, the drone applications will carry out infrastructure inspection for BPC. Power line inspection is the first activity in the maintenance cycle. Its effectiveness is important in determining the power system reliability and the maintenance costs of the electrical system.
As underscored in the MoU, the project strives to help both parties gain familiarity with drone technology. This will enhance confidence and gain momentum to invest in other drone projects. Further, DHI will analyse and evaluation financial and technical feasibility for usage of drones in the aforementioned use case.
DHI Innotech has conducted an in-depth research on how drones will help enhance and improve scheduled maintenance of the transmission infrastructure. According to the findings, it will reduce human intervention by taking inspectors away from dangerous inspection cycles thereby promoting safety.
The research confirms technical feasibility of the project. Additionally, the clearly defined and measurable objectives create business value. The learnings from drone utilization for power asset inspections, in particular for transmission grid operation and maintenance, can create value in three ways:
This project (first of its kind in Bhutan) will provide a clear pathway to overcome regulatory hurdles in setting up and operating a drone company. Once the project is piloted, DHI-BPC can provide consultancy services to organisations that develop drone technology for various use cases.
After completion of the pilot project, a deep analysis and review of the technology will be conducted. The research will also explore the diverse use cases of drones in mining, construction, disaster management and critical supply delivery. Therefore, this project will boost the inculcation of innovation culture not just for DHI and its group but for the nation at large.