The global market in drone-powered solutions for the power and utilities industries is worth as much as $9.46 billion a year, PwC estimates in a new report that illustrates how creative uses of unmanned aerial vehicles are disrupting the way companies build, operate and maintain their networks.
According to PwC’s report ‘Clarity from above: Leveraging drone technologies to secure utilities systems’, from PwC’s global Drone Powered Solutions team, the most prosaic applications range from geospatial surveys in pre-investment planning, through monitoring of the construction process and managing assets, to proactively dealing with threats such as overgrown vegetation.
The report includes stories of how creative utilities managers around the world are turning to drones to solve some of the industry’s most intractable problems, increasing both reliability and worker safety. For example, in most countries monitoring vegetation growth and trimming trees near power lines is the single biggest maintenance cost for power companies. It’s worth noting that global power transmission networks are forecast to increase to 6.8 million circuit kilometres in 2020, up 15% from the 2016 level. Regulators are increasingly concerned about reliability, offering incentives to reduce outages and penalties for downtime. Every year the sector loses US$169 billion due to energy network failures and forced shutdowns.
Drones can make the trimming process more efficient, as well as providing data that helps predict and avoid damage from falling trees.
Additionally, water utilities are also finding that drones can be more useful than satellites in the process of monitoring water quality. PwC’s Geospatial.App software allows the integration, presentation and management of mapping data gathered by drones equipped with visual, infrared and other cameras, which is useful in areas including monitoring the process of infrastructure construction, tracking the need for maintenance and assessing damage after natural or man-made disasters.
The report is the third in the ‘Clarity from above’ series. The first, released in May 2016, looked at the overall global market for applications of drone technology, estimating its value at more than $127 billion. The second report found a US$45 billion market for applications in the transport infrastructure sector.