Satellite Data Analysis Maximizes Mid-Cycle Inspection Efficiency

Electric Utilites vegetation management satellite data wildfires

Utility asset and vegetation inspection workflows are often conducted on a multi-year cyclical basis using several methods to assess the conditions of assets and vegetation within a service territory. One method is to walk the entire system every few years, which gains the most granular level of spatial detail, but the data is subject to degradation since the temporal frequency is low. That is to say, the asset health and vegetation presence at the starting point is likely to change significantly from the time it is first inspected to the next walking inspection several years later. Drive-by inspections are done on a more frequent basis where vehicle access is possible. This increases temporal inspection frequency, but the level of detail is not as precise since the assets and vegetation are looked at from farther away. Aerial fly-bys can cover the entire system more often, but again spatial resolution is lost for the same reason as drive-by inspections. To compensate for this loss, lidar inspections and high-resolution imagery provide more granular spatial accuracy, but their temporal frequency is still reduced due to the high costs of these types of data gathering. This begs the question: Is there a way to maximize the efficiency of all these types of inspections with continuous monitoring of an entire service territory or wildland-urban interface (WUI)? At Raster Report, we believe there is through our satellite-based analysis.

Our satellite data does not focus on high resolution images of poles and structures, or of vegetation encroachment into a right-of-way. Instead, we conduct a weekly to monthly rolling analysis of vegetation conditions in an entire utility service territory, which identifies specific areas that are more susceptible to combustion. With pole data for a transmission or rural distribution system, we can show the exact poles/structures that fall within the higher fire danger areas in an easy-to-read map. From there, utilities can dispatch ground crews to those structures and rights-of-way to inspect the conditions of the assets and vegetation in the vicinity. If dispatching crews for mid-cycle site inspections is not feasible, the option to use high spatial resolution data is still there, except the data can be focused on specific areas instead of the entire system, lowering data acquisition costs. Our process makes mid-cycle inspections more efficient since they are driven by temporally frequent data that identifies specific assets within increased fire danger areas. There is no need to implement or integrate costly inspection management, asset management or vegetation management systems that requires considerable training and organizational change management, just a map that shows where increased fire danger areas are located.

hotshot firefighter mid-cycle inspection vegetation management wui

On the same principle, our analysis can assist fire managers with monitoring of fire breaks around municipalities as well WUI areas. By identifying specific places of increased combustion probability, crews can be sent to thin out vegetation, reducing the potential rate of spread and severity of a fire if it occurs within or near the WUI. Again, a simple map is provided on a regular basis that shows managers and crews where increased combustion probability is identified. There is no additional training necessary or adoption of software, hardware, or any integrations with additional systems. This makes inspection processes more efficient on Day 1, and not months down the road after debugging systems and teaching team members how to use those systems.

More efficient inspection processes provide two obvious advantages for utilities and managers of the wildland-urban interface:

  1. Vegetation identified in high fire dangers can be trimmed, reducing the chances of ignition in that area as well as providing a potential fire break if a fire that originates elsewhere spreads to that area.

  2. Assets that may have known failure conditions or unknown conditions can be repaired or replaced, strongly reducing the chances of utility caused fires.

To find out how Raster Report can help you and your inspection processes, please contact us for a free demo.

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