Utilities clearance distance analysis using LiDAR

In this article we analyze Dielmo's latest project:
Over 2500 miles of power lines processed in the USA from LiDAR data for power line maintenance. Safety distance analysis and customized reports, with turnaround times every 4-5 days from receipt of data for each zone.


Table of contents

Whether you need a reliable company to process your LiDAR data, you are looking to optimize risk detection and obtain customized reports, or simply because you want to know the steps involved in a job of this magnitude, in this article we analyze our latest project for power line maintenance from LiDAR data, while detailing the steps that have been necessary to carry it out.

Understanding the project

This project was requested by one of our clients, which has performed the LiDAR data capture, but needed the capability of a reliable and efficient company to make a customized analysis and report, answering to the needs of the end customer, in this case, an electric company with thousands of miles of power lines to be maintained periodically.

Specifically, our client contacted us for the delivery of the following services in recurring periods of 4 to 5 days:

LiDAR data processing for more than 2500 miles of power lines.

We have carried out a complex and detailed classification of the lidar data by adding elements such as wires by different voltages, guard wires, supports, etc.

Lidar data processing of power lines

2D 1:1000 planimetrics and land use.

Using LiDAR, the intensity of the images and photogrammetry, we created a 1:1000 planimetry of the existing elements near the network as well as a land use map that will later be used for the calculation of clearance distances through LiDAR.

Analysis and detection of clearance distances on crossings and spans.

Customized algorithms have been developed to detect all anomalies and safety distances for each element required in the project (To ground, roads, rail, other network elements, crossings and other network elements, as well as multiple measurements per span).

Utility vegetation management through LiDAR

Utility vegetation management

An algorithm has been implemented used for utility vegetation management that detects risk zones close to the network.

Customized reports in excel and visual (pdf) with the results obtained.

Reports have been designed and customized, showing the analysis results for all measurements in different formats.

PLS-CADD crossing profiles

From the existing mapping and classified LiDAR, profiles in PLS-CADD format are automatically generated for detailed visualization of all network elements for each span.

PLS-CADD profile showing a power grid

Steps taken

1. Understanding our client's needs

In this first step, our client shares with us the requirements of his project and their particular needs. In this case, the utility company that has contracted our client’s services asks them for a complete analysis of their network, with a level of detail that goes beyond basic services, and they are looking for a high quality, tailor-made product.

2. Creating the project roadmap

Once we are clear about the product, we elaborate a roadmap:

  1. Our client performs the acquisition of the LiDAR data.
  2. Dielmo 3D develops and validates the methodology, including the algorithms, elements and distances to study.
  3. Dielmo 3D receives the data, classifies LiDAR, vectorizes in 2D the planimetry, and performs the pertinent quality controls.
  4. Dielmo 3D customizes and launches the different algorithms to obtain the clearance distances required by the end customer.
  5. Dielmo 3D designs in CAD format the profiles for each span.
  6. Dielmo 3D automatically generates reports for each measurement, in visual (PDF), detailed (excel) and CAD (technical) format.

3. Main obstacles

Every project has its own obstacles to overcome, and for this one, the main challenge was to meet all the client’s needs while guaranteeing delivery deadlines.

The client was concerned about being able to meet the deadlines set by the utility company. Without a clear and tested methodology, it would have been difficult to meet the 5-day turnaround time for the hundreds of miles between the date of receipt of data and delivery of the final product on a consistent basis.

Of course, in our case, this challenge was not new to us, and was overcome thanks to our experience and the use of our supercomputing servers for LiDAR data processing.

With it, we were able to adapt to the changes and modifications that arose during the project without affecting either the quality of the product or the delivery times.

In addition to the deadlines, another challenge we had to overcome was the need to measure many elements and successfully visualize them in a report or result that was both understandable and accurate. We overcome this challenge thanks to the professionalism of the technicians at Dielmo 3D and our R&D and software development department, who were able to jointly develop the customized product without many problems.

Completion of the project

The project, now completed, has lasted more than 1 year. Our client has thanked us for the effort and reactivity of the Dielmo 3D team constantly during this period.
A clear example to highlight occurred in a period of several weeks where we received requests for several urgent areas instead of 1, managing to respect the deadlines without affecting the quality and reliability of the data.

But the greatest indicator of satisfaction is now that we are working together with this client to achieve similar projects in 2021.

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