The use of drones for the inspection of transmission and distribution assets is expected to grow significantly in the next decade.
A new report states that global annual revenue for this market is expected to grow from $131.7m this year to $4.1bn in 2024.
The study from Navigant Research finds that an increasing number of utilities are turning to drones to carry out inspections that previously used line crews, helicopters, and third-party inspection services companies.
The report highlights that while the drone and robotics market for T&D is still at a very early stage, there are “new developments and product releases occurring daily. The value proposition for T&D utilities to complete at least a portion of their inspections, maintenance, and damage assessments via unmanned aerial vehicles and robotics is strong.”
It adds that there is currently more than 50 companies in the market and consolidation and large-scale growth are expected.
A particular area of interest for drone companies is the inspection of wind turbines.
Navigant states that at the beginning of this year there were nearly 270,000 wind turbines operating globally, accounting for more than 800,000 turbine blades.
In wind turbine inspections, Navigant says that unmanned aerial vehicles handled by professional operators “can provide higher-resolution visual inspections than ground-based inspections. They also provide an inspection that is quicker, easier, and less costly and risky than rope access techniques.”
Jesse Broehl, senior research analyst with Navigant, said: “The use of drones for wind turbine blade inspection is proving to be more than a novelty. Current inspection techniques from the ground and by rope or platform access will not be replaced, however – they will increasingly be augmented by drone inspections, which bring certain advantages.”
Navigant states that the emerging wind turbine UAV market is driven by the massive number of blades that need to be inspected for normal deterioration and for pre-end-of-warranty inspections.