PHOTO: ÑITO SALAS / VIDEO: E. CABEZAS

State-of-the-art technology used to check condition of Malaga's electricity supply network

Endesa uses drones and helicopters to check power lines and take preventive action in the event of incidents

Eugenio Cabezas
EUGENIO CABEZAS

Electricity company Endesa is stepping up checks on its high and medium voltage overhead lines over the summer to anticipate any imperfections or sensitive points in these installations and take preventive action. As such the company is using the latest technologies in a campaign in which it is investing more than 750,000 euros in Andalucía.

Last week Spanish media was given an insight into the work that Endesa's team of experts have been doing. Under the direction of José María Díaz, who is head of high voltage supply in Andalucía and Extremadura, the team have been flying over the Axarquía area from Leoni Benabú aerodrome in Vélez-Málaga. In total, the electricity company will fly over 950 kilometres of high voltage lines and 1,469 kilometres of medium voltage lines in Malaga, using the latest technology.

Technicians are using helicopters equipped with thermographic vision cameras and cutting-edge LIDAR technology for their inspections, and a new feature this year is a 4K video camera and 150 megapixel photography. They stop at important points such as transformer towers, overhead-to-underground conversion junctions and cable clamps and take photos of the temperature of the structures.

GPS technology

"It is a very helpful image for the technicians to be able to establish the state of the installations," explained Díaz. He went on to say that the helicopter inspection "aims to detect anomalies that could affect the proper functioning of the installations and the continuity of the electricity supply, hence the technology installed in the helicopters".

Thermographic cameras allow inspection of the network with infrared cameras, to detect higher than normal temperatures. If any anomaly is detected, the coordinates of the "weak point" are recorded and the protocol to correct it is automatically activated, according to Jesús Zambrano, head of Endesa's grid maintenance lines unit.

In addition to this technology, the electricity company has LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, which combines GPS technology with laser sensors and enables three-dimensional maps to be made and power lines to be mapped. This tool simultaneously provides information on both terrain relief and vegetation cover, which is useful for creating high-resolution maps of forest areas and for planning forest clearance.

Fire corridors

This material, together with the images from the 4K cameras used to record the entire inspection of high-voltage lines and pylons, makes it possible to analyse the whole area in detail. In addition, Endesa's technicians are also using drones in their inspections, a technology that has been in use since 2012 in Malaga and throughout Andalucía.

These devices are equipped with high-resolution cameras that capture images of the lines and are particularly useful for checking the condition of infrastructure in areas that are difficult to access without the need to interrupt supply. Drones can also be used to check the width of safety corridors that act as firewalls.

These corridors are another part of the preventive actions that Endesa carries out between October and May in coordination with the Junta de Andalucía. The work involves felling and pruning of vegetation near the power lines to help prevent fires. The selective felling and pruning work is carried out in accordance with the criteria stipulated in the national and regional regulations, which establishes the growth calendar of different species.

This year these actions have seen an investment of more than one million euros, and have been carried out on nearly 20,000 kilometres of high, medium and low voltage lines that extend throughout Malaga, which is equivalent to the distance between Malaga and South Africa, according to the electricity company.