Earth observation: Why is it an effective tool for utility vegetation management?


Quick, think of one way you can reimagine vegetation management for the utility industry. How about having the power to see the entire T&D network and the vegetation around it remotely? Add to that a perspective that allows utility vegetation management (UVM) experts to view their network from a higher vantage point. Not only does it offer 360-degree visibility of their network, but it also allows them to scale their O&M like never before.

Earth observation (EO) via space technology is becoming exceedingly accessible and advanced in today’s world. With its varied applications in surface changes, forestry, agriculture, land management, biodiversity and more, satellites are gaining popularity rapidly in the commercial space.

Let’s talk about scalability, consistency, efficiency, and cost savings

While Earth observation is a technology that is truly revolutionary and governed by the principles of advanced science, how will it help UVM stakeholders and the company bottom-line is a question that needs answering. The industry must be open to thinking, how can we do things differently?

The value is not in saying that a technology can do a particular work for you. It is necessary to have the right business mindset to make it possible for the technology to radically change how you do things.

Many technologies have been on a reasonably fast trajectory for a while. Let’s take the example of drones and helicopters using LiDAR technology – a vital part of the remote sensing domain. LiDAR is one of the popular ways of data acquisition and analytics for several utilities and has been used for UVM for decades now. However, has LiDAR radically reduced fall-in risks or hazard tree detection or wildfires? Not really. LiDAR offers detailed and very high-resolution images of a section of utility’s transmission or distribution network, but it is not viable in terms of scalability. It comes with major operational challenges and is very expensive.

Satellites, on the other hand, are fast, cost-effective, weather-independent and provide historic data as well as change detection data. What’s more? Satellites offer a large-scale, consistent and scalable option for UVM decision-makers. When combined with Artificial Intelligence, the possibilities are endless.

Here’s an infographic that explains how EO satellites are transforming vegetation management for electric utilities: