Project Endeavour takes off with first 5G drone flight demonstration

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Electricity distribution network Endeavour Energy has conducted its first successful on-site inspection of physical electricity infrastructure, using a combination of 5G, cloud, AI, drone technology and ultra-high definition (UHD) cameras.

The demonstration is a landmark in Project Endeavour, undertaken by Endeavour Energy in partnership with telecommunications company Optus, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and AWS partner Unleash live.

The $648 000 project started in September 2021.

Australian federal minster for communication, urban infrastructure, cities and the arts, Paul Fletcher joined teams from the project’s stakeholders to watch the drones’ flight.

Chris Mitchell, Managing Director of Optus Enterprise said, “Today’s successful test of Project Endeavour shows the value that 5G brings to enterprise businesses and critical infrastructure. The 5G’s ultra-low latency allows customers like Endeavour Energy to leverage a range of technologies like never before. Credit to the Australian Government and our partners in AWS and Unleash live in bringing this to life.”

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Drone Demonstration

The demonstration saw the drones fly over the local network with footage streamed using 5G to Endeavour Energy’s training ground.

With the demonstration a success, Endeavour Energy will now deploy the solution across infrastructure assets in Penrith and Blacktown in New South Wales. This will help the energy provider improve network safety and avoid disruptive unplanned power outages for homes and businesses.

It’s expected that the use of drones should save Endeavour Energy time inspecting their network footprint, which is made up of more than 60 000km of powerlines, 400 000 power poles and 32 000 substations across Sydney’s Greater West, the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, the Illawarra, and the South Coast of New South Wales.

It should also help to reduce the number of vehicles and helicopters needed to physically identify and carry out remediation.

Fletcher commented on the project in a statement, “The 5G Innovation Initiative is designed to help businesses take advantage of innovative digital technologies, creating jobs and supporting Australia’s economic growth.

“Project Endeavour is a good illustration (…) of the broader potential of 5G applications to support the community. By employing drones to undertake remote inspections of critical infrastructure, the technology developed through Project Endeavour will assist in restoring power supplies as quickly as possible after interruption — including during natural disasters.”

Project Endeavour

The 5G drones will enable Endeavour Energy to live-stream footage of damaged assets to its control centres in real-time. Crews and materials can be efficiently deployed for repairs, reducing the time homes and businesses are without power.

The technology can also be deployed to help accelerate network remediation and improve worker safety. This can be done by remotely alerting Endeavour Energy of faults or damaged equipment on the electricity network that could be difficult for humans to manually identify.

Project Endeavour’s aim is to enable faster identification of damage to powerlines caused by storms, floods, bushfires and other natural disasters.

On-site inspections are currently conducted by Endeavour Energy utilising a large fleet of vehicles, helicopters, and a team of technicians to physically identify and carry out remediation.

Scott Ryan, chief asset and operating officer of Endeavour Energy said, “Finding a better way to deliver a safe, reliable, and sustainable electricity supply is in our DNA. We’re thrilled to work with Optus, AWS, and Unleash live, with the support of the Australian Government to expedite the use of 5G drone technology to make faster decisions and expedite critical maintenance to continue to keep the lights on for our customers.”

Rianne van Veldhuizen, managing director at Amazon Web Services in Australia and New Zealand commented on the promise of the project partnership to bolster NSW’s energy network, “By leveraging AWS’s analytics and storage capabilities, Unleash live can ingest, store, and process large volumes of visual data from Endeavour Energy’s electricity network in real-time to enable technicians to make faster decisions and expedite maintenance safely.”

Unleash live CEO and Co-founder, Hanno Blankenstein, said: “With Australia’s increasing reliance on renewable energy, the safe and reliable transmission of electricity across our power network will be critical.

“Through working together with Endeavour Energy, Optus and AWS, Australia will be leading the world when it comes to improving grid reliability and reducing the risks associated to wildfires, floods and other public hazards.”

The project is being funded by the Australian Federal Government’s 5G Innovation Initiative.