In a first for Canada, Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG) has been approved to use drones for facility inspections without human observers on-site, according to Transport Canada.
OPG will use Percepto autonomous inspection drones to perform remote inspections in a pilot project starting this month at McConnell Lake Control Dam in northwest Quebec.
Percepto’s “drone-in-a-box” solution is called Beyond Visual Line of Sight. OPG will be using the Air Max model with 24MP RGB and radiometric thermal cameras. It uses an autonomous detect and avoid cycle that enables drones to automatically avoid other flying objects and gauge weather conditions.
“We look forward to growing our strong working relationship with Transport Canada and supporting their efforts to create a thriving environment for drone operations by making autonomous drone technology available to power stations and other critical infrastructure across the country,” announced Neta Gliksman, Percepto VP of policy and government affairs, in a statement.
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Percepto officials added that utilities will gain the benefits of remote, high frequency visual inspection with actionable insights and potentially be able to control fleets at multiple sites.
While OPG has used drones for inspections in the past, since 2015, it has always been with observers and operators on-site. They have also been flown inside some facilities, such as the Unit 4 reactor at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station to map the reactor face for radiation levels.
OPG owns and operates 66 hydroelectric, two nuclear, and two thermal generating stations, as well as one solar facility.
Transport Canada issued a Special Flight Operations Certificate for the Percepto drone, as provided by Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems. The company has been working with U.S. utilities since 2019.
Anglian Water, one of the largest water utilities in the U.K., had been taking advantage of unusually dry conditions last summer by using drones to spot water pipe leaks that may have otherwise gone undetected in full reservoirs.