Ergon Energy has developed new technology that allows for fast and accurate inspection of electricity networks and surrounding environments without the need to deploy field workers. The technology has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious international 2015 Edison Award.

As one of three international finalists, the Remote Observation Automated Modelling Economic Simulation (ROAMES) system is transforming inspection, maintenance and vegetation management regimes on large scale assets such as electricity networks.

Operating one of the single largest electricity networks in the western world, Ergon Energy developed an aircraft-based laser and imaging capture system that can quickly and efficiently map its network and reveal encroachment of vegetation and condition of poles, wires and other assets.

It also delivers other cloud-based data which can be used to quickly assess large sections of network in a fraction of the time of traditional inspection regimes.

ROAMES combines pioneering geospatial mapping techniques with accurate three-dimensional modelling which shows precise locations of the electricity network in relation to buildings, trees and other objects.

Ergon Chief Executive Ian McLeod said that while the Edison Award selection was very much world-class recognition of the regional Queensland innovation, ROAMES had already been a winner for his electricity company.

“We are already part of the way through a third mapping of our entire 160,000-plus kilometres of network with ROAMES and understanding maintenance and other priorities from this data better than we ever have in the past,” Mr McLeod said.

“Further to this, ROAMES has also been deployed twice in the last 12 months to help us quickly assess damage from cyclones, plan our response and reduce power restoration times and costs – including just a month ago in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Marcia across Central Queensland,” he said.

Mr McLeod said the cost savings potential of the system was “enormous”.

“ROAMES, along with other contract strategies, has already contributed towards vegetation management savings alone in the order of $40 million per year,” Mr McLeod explained.

“Removing the tedium, long inspection timeframes and high cost of network inspection not only makes our network safer and cheaper to run, it frees up our people to focus on work that adds value,” he said.

Safety is a key value for Ergon and the ROAMES capability has already proven its worth by identifying risks in the network that previously could not be detected using traditional inspection processes.

Data captured through ROAMES is also automatically analysed, with the system creating work orders and assessing sites that present the highest risk, effectively removing human error and quickly prioritising network repairs where they are needed most.

“Our customers want a safe and reliable network, as do we, and ROAMES is enabling us to deliver that at lower cost,” Mr McLeod said.

“It’s great to see that Queensland can develop and commercialise world leading and cost effective technology,” Mr McLeod said, “The technology, now owned by Fugro ROAMES, is also making headway in Europe and the USA”.


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