Remote monitoring and inspection: The new normal for power utilities


Industries around the world, which once would have disapproved of remote working, have embraced it in its entirety. Experts predict that remote working is here to stay and is reshaping the future world of work.

In line with this trend, remote monitoring of infrastructure is being deemed as the new normal for power utilities. An indispensable function for utilities, monitoring of transmission and distribution lines has always been intrinsic to operations and maintenance activities. From detecting vegetation in close proximity to power lines risking expensive downtime to mitigating hazards of wildfires, responsive and proactive maintenance can save millions of dollars. 

All you need to know: Satellite-powered remote monitoring and inspection

Imagine having a remote control that offers complete visibility of assets distributed across tens of thousands of miles. It is possible, thanks to satellite technology and Artificial Intelligence. The advancements in capturing data via satellite imagery and the use of predictive analytics in processing these data sets have proved to be revolutionary in the operations and maintenance space for core industries.

Remote monitoring and inspection tools are designed to automate routine monitoring, inspection, surveying and audit of both transmission and distribution lines. It is particularly effective in detecting vegetation and other hazards along power lines. Along with that, it is also useful in detecting RoW encroachment, such as houses below transmission lines, which is both dangerous and illegal.

These platforms use cutting-edge AI technology to process high-resolution multispectral satellite imagery and enable utilities to strategically and remotely monitor hazards via a web dashboard and mobile app.

  • Very High-Resolution satellite imagery

With the evolution of recent 30-cm very high-resolution (VHR) satellite imagery, it is now possible to view vegetation (tree species and height) and smaller objects on land in greater detail. New image processing algorithms also present the opportunity to perform change detection and multi-temporal analysis, vegetation monitoring in complex ecosystems, urban mapping and the like. 

  • Asset map indexing

Many core industries are faced with the problem of inaccurate GIS files and asset mapping. With the help of satellite imagery, this problem can be solved once and for all. Not only can it detect anomalies with the current map and rectify them in the process, but VHR satellite images can also provide an accurate asset map index for streamlining the remote monitoring and inspection process. 

  • AI models to process information

To prevent the utility from being overloaded with the wealth of data from the field, there are also AI applications available to view the data in and process it to determine health scores and predict when and how failures might occur. Satellite technology can also allow the utility to perform remote inspections to make more efficient use of man and machine hours.

  • No need for routine inspections

Thanks to remote inspections, there’s no need to perform routine inspections using age-old approaches such as line patrol, on-site patrol or expensive and slow aerial surveys. Satellites can inspect an entire network of transmission and distribution lines on-demand in less than a day allowing complete visibility at all times, and thereby, helping industries save big on operational costs.

  • Automation and preventive maintenance

Automation and the presence of an intelligent application and dashboard enable users to know what action needs to be taken – when and where. A new task is created as soon as the AI model identifies a potential risk, threat or hazard. The dashboard allows operators the ability to drill down to get more details on the requirement and task created, so they have the data on hand to make informed decisions. Not only can the data be presented and monitored in real-time, but it can be stored in a historical database that can be used in predictive analytics to plan and prioritize maintenance, repair or replacement activities.

  • Safety

One of the biggest benefits of remote monitoring and inspections of a site is its added safety features. Remote inspections imply field technicians and supervisors don’t need to enter hazardous work areas as frequently and be exposed to the dangers of high-risk environments. Moreover, they can work from their offices, or even better, from their homes during trying times like COVID-19.

Comparing satellite-powered remote monitoring to drones and aerial imagery

There are several use cases of satellite-based remote monitoring and inspection for power utilities, especially with regards to vegetation management. When compared to two other popular aerial imagery sources, namely drones and airplanes, using satellites for remote monitoring and inspection has proven to be beneficial in ways more than one.

  • CheaperSatellite imagery is almost ten times cheaper than using drones, LiDAR and airplanes. Vegetation management and O&M activities are often very expensive for most utilities. Hence, opting for satellite technology to save costs makes sense. 
  • Instantaneous – Apart from being cheaper, satellite imagery is also instantaneous. A network as large as 100K miles of distribution and 10K miles of transmission lines can be inspected in a couple of days. Applying other techniques like drones for the same geographic area can take several weeks and months to gather data.
  • No regulatory compliance needed – Unlike drones and airplanes, using satellites is easier because there are no regulatory compliances needed to be taken in advance to capture imagery from a particular geolocation.
  • Change detection – Satellite data combines past data with the present and provides the complete picture of change detection along with the assets, such as power lines, cables, electricity poles and feeders. Being able to detect changes helps track the growth of different tree species. This, in turn, can be used to plan trim cycles, hazard tree removal and so on. The satellite imagery is also used to remotely access if vegetation management work is being done as required. Routine monitoring of transmission lines is also possible through the platform.

AiDash is a leading AI-first SaaS company enabling satellite-powered operations & maintenance for power utilities and other core industries in the US. Our novel platform — Remote Monitoring and Inspection — for power lines creates a 3D point cloud of vegetation along power lines. Along with information gathered from this model, additional data from satellite-based bio-mass detection, local weather and past incidences are used to create a wildfire risk score at a circuit or sub-circuit level. Feel free to mail us at for a demo.