Date of Defense
Date of Graduation
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Inspections of electrical distribution lines are necessary to prevent unwanted and costly power outages to customers, locate safety hazards, find damages to equipment, and conform to the law. Though necessary, the current process for power distribution line inspections is slow and labor intensive. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) camera were used to automate the inspection process, cutting down on these labor costs. By better automating the inspection process, inspections can be completed faster, thus improving the reliability of electric distribution assets.
Automating the UAV flightpath involved using existing waypoint software to accompany the flight controller software. The software allows a user to input up to 50 GPS waypoints which are then downloaded to the UAV. The UAV then follows those waypoints autonomously after liftoff and lands at its user-defined home point.
A LiDAR camera was also used to gather aerial video. Though Consumers Energy had used the LiDAR camera once in the past, previous footage was gathered via a ground vehicle over two years ago in 2015. The design team developed a way to mount the camera to the UAV and test fly the final product. Additionally, LiDAR post-data processing software was researched for Consumers Energy to expand their use of LiDAR data and learn what software applications may be useful in their day-to-day businesses.
Because of the difficulty flying the UAV poses to pilots, the senior design team also designed a removable sensor system that alerts the remote pilot in command (RPIC) of an obstacle within the UAV’s flight path. An array of three ultrasonic sensors was used with a pair of Arduino microcontrollers and Digi XBee radio modules to wirelessly transmit the proximity 3 data gathered by the sensors. Multiple brackets were also designed to hold the LiDAR camera, flight controller GPS, batteries, and designed sensor components in place during flight.
Gill, Sarah, "UAVs for Electric Utility Inspections" (2018). Honors Theses. 2946.