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Using ArcGIS + Drone Imagery to Conduct Desktop Circuit Inspections

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Our client, an energy provider in the Southeast, sought assistance from Patrick's Geospatial Services Team for their Interactive Volt Var Control (IVVC) project. This project involves integrating load tap changers, voltage regulators, and capacitor banks using controls, telecommunications, and IT systems. Performing these integrations conserves energy by flatting demand and reducing system losses while ultimately reducing costs. A careful analysis is required to integrate a circuit and locate where it should be placed. The analysis is run utilizing our client’s GIS. Critical data elements that must be checked to ensure compliance are the phase and size of a transformer, as well as the phase and wire size of tap lines.

To verify that the data was useful for GIS analysis, our client utilized drone technology to conduct inspections. The drones were used to fly the primary backbone conductors of the project circuits and collect high resolution imagery of the equipment along the circuit. The client then had linemen inspectors review the aerial photography and compare it with location data in the GIS.

To complete the inspections, Patrick's Geospatial Services Team created an ArcGIS Web Application (WebApp) within their ArcGIS Portal environment. The WebApp allows inspectors to review the drone imagery and mark locations of discrepancies between information in the photos and their GIS. “Comment” points are then used by a GIS technician to update their GIS.

Advantages of using the ArcGIS WebApp include:

1. Allows for easy customization of the existing data. Custom data filters and simple, logical symbology allow the inspector to easily identify where equipment is located. They can also efficiently highlight locations with that require closer review due to discrepancies with wire sizes and/or phases.

2. Provides the ability for an inspector to add features within the tool itself. The inspector can add a point with comments at the location where an issue is found, therefore making it easy for the GIS technician to find these locations and update the GIS.

3. Supports the ability to add the drone photos at the location they were taken. Using ArcGIS Geoprocessing tools, we can easily streamline the capability of creating points at the location stored in the photo’s metadata. Having this spatial relationship between the photos and the circuits’ components greatly increases the capacity of finding the drone photo relevant to the equipment being inspected. Considering the average of more than 1,000 photos per circuit and approximately 1,800 circuits to be flown, utilizing an interactive mapping tool (ArcGIS WebApp) to organize the photos significantly improved accessibility and usability of the drone photos.

Additional benefit:

The inspectors have a tool that improves identification and reporting of asset maintenance needs and concerns. The inspector can locate and denote maintenance needs as they inspect. ArcGIS Desktop is then used to create a maintenance report that includes the photo, an overhead aerial of the site, and a street map that can be used to generate a work order.


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