Sand, sand, and more sand! After the lush Chinese forest, Sterblue is discovering the desert of Saudi Arabia for new inspections! Just before Christmas period, I spent 5 days in Dammam (northeast of Saudi Arabia) with our partner Cegelec, a subsidiary of Vinci Energies in charge of transmission grid maintenance in the country.
In Saudi Arabia, energy is a big issue that is taken very seriously. More and more electricity needs to be provided due to growing oil and gas industry, expanding cities and bigger population. Guess what is the first thing you see when you get out the airport: the incredible number of transmission towers crossing the desert.
Good news: there is absolutely no obstacle!
One big advantage of the transmission grid in Saudi Arabia is that every tower are easily accessible by 4x4, there is no dense vegetation. However, conditions can be extremely difficult with really hot temperatures (~43°C in August, but fortunately it was around 25°C when I was there) and intense winds because of the large surface without any obstacles. Sand dunes can build up, modifying the height of pylons, and this can be challenging for inspections. Electric arcs can also appear if an operator is below low hanging cables above the ground. Drones definitely allow workers to stay far away from towers during detailed inspections.
Easier, Faster, Safer and … Better!
For its customers in Saudi Arabia, a local subsidiary of a global player in Operations and maintenance is exploring new ways to inspect transmission towers with better efficiency. Currently, transmission towers are regularly inspected by manually piloted drones and technicians climbing to the towers. Sterblue solutions will increase their productivity, safety and enable their customers to better monitor those key assets.
During the first three days, Michael was trained to our solution and performed several multi-tower inspections himself. Every morning we were on site 1h30 from Dammam inspecting transmission towers next to… Bedouin’s tents and camels, really fun!
Even if transmission towers are very high (75 meters) with very high voltage (400kV), the automatic computed trajectory allowed us to fly safely despite strong winds and electromagnetic interference. It is now time to deliver inspection reports using technical experts and Sterblue dedicated AI to find potential faults!
Next step: inspection by camel ride ;)