First drone flight beyond the line of sight

Long distance hybrid drone Smart grids

In partnership with the Navarre start-up, FuVeX, UFD is making the first drone flight beyond the line of sight over an electricity grid in Spain.

This significant milestone in the monitoring of electrical lines places UFD as a leading company for this type of operation in Spain. The aim is to use this technology regularly from 2020 in order to improve efficiency when inspecting electrical lines and eliminate security risks for the operators.

The drone used was designed by the Navarre start-up, FuVeX. It is a hybrid aeroplane/multi-rotor vehicle, with a patented design that is easily operated thanks to its vertical take-off/landing from any flat surface, and its airplane cruising mode, with up to five times more range than helicopters and multi-rotor vehicles. The aircraft includes systems for safe, legal and airspace coordinated flight.

Power lines are currently checked by drones that fly within the line of sight; i.e. within a maximum of 500 metres from the pilot. The agreement between UFD and FuVeX was signed within the framework of current regulations and also anticipates European regulations in the BVLOS category (Beyond Visual Line of Sight). The objective sought by UFD and FuVeX is to take drones to their next industrial level—long-distance flights—and become the first company to operate drones on an industrial scale at long BVLOS distances over power lines in Europe in 2020.

Raúl Suárez, the General Manager of UFD, said: “Our company is synonymous with open innovation and we are constantly focused on internal talent and combining our knowledge with external talent. By doing this, we can better see how to generate and develop new ideas and products capable of bringing added value to the market. That was precisely the case with this long-distance power line inspection project using aircraft beyond the line of sight, positioning us on the cutting edge of this field in Spain and Europe.

Public-private partnership

The first flight was also made possible thanks to a partnership and coordination with the State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA), which is responsible for overseeing operations with drones of up to 150 kg, and ENAIRE, the air navigation and aeronautical information manager in Spain, the fourth-largest in Europe in terms of traffic volume and one of the most important in the world.

Innovation, in Naturgy’s DNA

Innovation has always been part of the Naturgy group, and it is currently committed to a collaborative and open innovation strategy which encourages relationships with external stakeholders such as universities, start-ups, research bodies, entrepreneurs and public administrations to promote the exchange of ideas and transform them into services that guarantee a supply of efficient, sustainable and secure energy.