Drones used to monitor French district heating scheme

Date: 1 August 2016

Drone technology is being used to watch over the Venissieux Energies network near Lyon in eastern France, ensuring any weaknesses to the structure are identified on time.

Earlier this year the drone, equipped with an infrared thermal camera inspected five kilometers of the 20km that make up the Venissieux Energies heating network, a subsidiary of Dalkia. Ten points of weakness were pinpointed through using the drone.

The aim of the thermography was twofold: pre-locate areas likely to crack and cause leakage and generally direct the pipeline renewal program in a more suitable fashion.

The weaknesses are often due to the infiltration of water outside the network such as sewage or rainwater. Their stagnation damage the insulation (protection of the pipe that contains the heat) and can eventually corrode pipes and cause breaks or leaks.

Two areas identified as weak points will be addressed in the context of network upgrades this summer.

Venissieux Energies chose a Lyon-based company, StudioFly, out of a final shortlist of five to perform the inspection of the city of Venissieux network.

This methodology has been used before. In May 2015, Dalkia had used a drone to detect leaks and anomalies in the Mazamet heating network. This was mainly used as an experiment  to test the suitability of the device.

After several hours flying over the city, the drone revealed anomalies but also a number of irregularities that thermography “traditional” could not identify. And this is one of the main advantages of the drone. Unlike helicopter or pedestrian control, it offers a wider field of vision and precision, with a sharper image reproduction. Beyond the necessary permissions to fly over the city, the device is easily deployable. Another advantage is that it is more ecological and economical than the helicopter.

This thermographic inspection experimentation by drone is part of a national innovation program run by Dalkia. The objective is to improve asset management with innovative tools for collecting and analyzing information. For the second test, Venissieux had the advantage of a network portion (5 km) where recent thermography operations could be used as comparison.

Source: Decentralised Energy