Italian electricity and gas giant Enel has today launched an on-site autonomous drone system developed by Israeli aerial technology company Percepto. Percepto’s Sparrow system is being put through its paces at Enel’s Torrevaldaliga Nord power plant in Italy.
At the Torrevaldaliga Nord power plant, the Sparrow will complete autonomous missions under the supervision of an operator. Just like in many countries around the world, Italy’s regulatory framework does not yet allow fully autonomous drone flight. The ability to go about its duties without intervention (but with a backseat pilot) would appear to be the closest we are going to get for now.
The Sparrow drone has both standard and thermal imaging capabilities. It will fly regular missions to support around-the-clock operations at the power plant, offering aerial video and data snapshots that will be streamed to Enel personnel in real-time. It can operate at night and fly for 40 minutes at a time.
A drone-in-a-box solution
The Sparrow drone is stationed on-site at Enel’s power plant, and housed inside its own docking station. From there it’s able to launch, land and recharge autonomously. The Percepto Base also shelters the drone, transfers data to the Enel team and conducts “health checks” to make sure the Sparrow is ready for the next mission.
The system supports advanced analytics that harnesses machine learning to enable human/vehicle detection and tracking, gas/water leak detection and other maintenance abnormalities.
The Sparrow system has been designed to handle even the harshest of weather conditions, ensuring that operations continue in the face of heavy rain, snow and dust.
The idea of an all-in-one, drone-in-a-box solution may sound like it’s somehow cutting corners, but Percepto claims that round the clock flights make aerial missions easier to conduct, increase flight frequency and in turn the probability of anomaly detection at an early stage.
“While drones are touted as the technology of the future, the ability to act autonomously unlocks their true potential, enabling them to act as a responsible, independent and smart ‘team member’ that provides not only a bird’s-eye view of facilities, but real, actionable insights,” said Dor Abuhasira, CEO of Percepto.
“We’re proud to be working with Enel and look forward to many years of cooperation with a company that excels in terms of generation of safe, low-cost, and environmentally-conscious energy.”