National Grid eyes savings of £22 million through satellite imagery initiative

Eye in the Sky won funding from the SIF for further development in July. Image: National Grid.

National Grid is using satellite imagery to boost the resilience of the grid, as part of a new project that could save £22 million over the next decade.

The Eye in the Sky initiative is funded by Ofgem and Innovate UK’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), and is designed to improve visibility and monitoring of the grid network and its surroundings, around the clock.

“Eye in the Sky is exploring the really exciting prospect of using satellites to monitor grid infrastructure and the surrounding area, helping us understand how and why networks are being affected,” said Sean Coleman, innovation manager at National Grid.

“If a change is detected, the technology could inform an engineer on the ground who can analyze the data to make a more informed decision on how to respond. It could further streamline our processes and bring benefits to consumers in terms of cost and grid resilience.”

Traditionally, ground patrols and aerial surveillance from helicopters and drones are used to assess the network. But these often cannot access remote areas quickly.

By combining satellite imagery with analytics, National Grid is hoping to be able to identify changes to its network or the environment around it caused by geographic anomalies, extreme weather or human interference.

This will allow for a quick assessment of risk or damage, and help to more efficiently deploy teams to fix issues and reconfigure parts of the network to avoid outages. Streamlining these operations can help to reduce manhours and emissions from site visits.

The Eye in the Sky initiative is designed to support business-as-usual maintenance, such as cutting back overgrown vegetation. As well as cutting the cost of this work, bringing in such a system could speed up emergency response and system recovery, as well as improve grid reliability.

Beyond its current stage, there is also the potential for the technology to be used to create predictive models. Combining the network data from the satellite imagery with atmospheric sensors could help improve the understanding of how weather events impact the grid.

Led by National Grid, the initiative brings together a number of partners including the European Space Agency, Cranfield University, satellite data specialist Spottitt and expert in risk management and quality assurance DNV.

Lucy Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Spottitt, said: “With a lack of geospatial information about what is going on in and around our critical assets causing 200 billion pounds worth of preventable losses globally, it is exciting to see how the scale, Revisit frequency and overall monitoring potential of satellites is being increasingly recognized and explored by owners of critical infrastructure of all types.”

Eye in the Sky was one of 18 ‘alpha’ projects to receive up to £500,000 each to develop their concept more in depth through the SIF in July.

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