SSEN takes to the sky to maintain its towers

Image above shows Cyberhawk operatives scanning and monitoring the electricity infrastructure

Drone technology is being used by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to monitor towers on over 64,000 kilometres of overhead power lines across its central southern England patch; helping to maintain a secure network and keep the power flowing for its 3.1 million customers in the south. 

Traditionally engineers would be required to physically climb towers to assess the condition of critical infrastructure. The £420,000 programme in association with Cyberhawk uses drones and iHawk to inspect and visualise SSEN’s infrastructure over 64,261 kilometres, from the rural Cotswolds to the urban areas of West London, without intrusion or inconvenience to nearby customers. 

SSEN engineers are responsible for maintaining and inspecting 1,524 towers across central southern England. The Cyberhawk drone technology is deployed in a manner that minimises disruption for customers, reduces the risk to individuals scaling this infrastructure, and accelerates the inspection process to support the delivery of a safe and secure supply of electricity to the 3.1m households SSEN serves in the south. 

Martin Bailey, SSEN’s Maintenance and Inspection Manager said: “SSEN’s towers, which support our overhead network, sit across all four regions of our central southern England distribution area and are positioned in various different land types and even air spaces. 

"Prior to using the drones, we were required to climb the towers, bringing an element of risk to those involved and taking a great time to safely carry out the assessment. Most of our towers have walk in access so now only two people are required to operate the drone and this in turn results in minimal impact on the environment, and far less inconvenience for land owners and nearby residents.” 

Martin continued: “SSEN is a considerate constructor, so looks for ways to reduce disruption, pollution and noise wherever possible and by using drones, we have been able to cut down on teams travelling and have minimised the footfall on sites of special scientific interest, industrial and housing estates and even restricted airspace sites; all while working with heightened security and ensuring the privacy of our customers.” 

Cyberhawk’s CEO, Chris Fleming said: “Cyberhawk continues to support SSEN and its drives towards digital transformation and safer working. By using drones we have been able to capture inspection imagery in a systematic way whilst keeping people’s feet firmly on the ground; reducing the need for people to work at height and lessening any potential impact on the environment. We then evaluate the results in our secure cloud based asset management software, iHawk allowing SSEN to prioritise repairs efficiently with full visibility. 

“SSEN has been quick to understand the benefits and is an early adopter of technology. It’s been fantastic to help SSEN improve its workflows and we look forward to helping bring further technology to their networks.” 

Each year, SSEN invests millions of pounds on maintaining and upgrading its electricity infrastructure, providing a resilient supply to homes and businesses across central southern England and future-proofing the network that will enable the UK to meet its ambitious net-zero ambitions.