These days, drones are used for more than just recreational and military purposes, and are becoming popular for all kinds of applications in a wide range of sectors. At ENGIE, for example, we use them to inspect and monitor power plants, and to install and maintain high-voltage lines. On 22 May, Agoria published a new study on the use of drones in Belgium, which was commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). ENGIE Fabricom also contributed to the study, and shared its expertise.
In recent years, ENGIE Fabricom has launched a number of pilot projects using drones.
For example, ENGIE Fabricom tested drones for the installation of a high-voltage line for Elia as part of the Stevin project in Eeklo in 2016. This had never been tried before in Belgium, but was brought to a successful conclusion by our teams. Strict legislation applies in Belgium, so specific authorisation had to be requested first from the government for this test case.
This use of drones offers many benefits for the customer: risks can be limited compared to using a helicopter for installation, the work can be finished faster, and costs can be reduced.
Testing is also ongoing with the deployment of drones to clean isolators on high-voltage cables. Currently, this task has to be performed manually by employees who have to climb to the top of pylons. This solution is currently being further refined together with ENGIE Group’s R&D team, to ensure the end result is as good as possible. The work is also performed more efficiently when drones are used.
ENGIE has been using drones to carry out inspections and checks in power stations for a number of years. The devices are easy to control, highly manoeuvrable, and are ideal for inspecting installations with difficult access, or if inspection puts people at risk. Such inspections are safer because the using drones reduces the risk of personal accidents to almost zero, and they are also more cost-efficient because they require less time and manpower. ENGIE does not use its own drones, but works with external partners who adapt their devices to ENGIE’s needs. For example, if a boiler has to be inspected and there is a lot of dust in the atmosphere, the partner builds a drone with appropriate resistance.