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The ENGIE Drones & Robots Lab at CES 2019


Did you know that ENGIE had a research laboratory focused on Drones and Robots? Accompanied by one of its partner startups, the Lab will be at CES 2019 at the ENGIE & Partners booth.

Erwin George (Lab Manager and Industry expert) will be in charge of presenting the Drones & Robots Lab.

The Drones and Robots Lab is part of CRIGEN (the ENGIE Group's R&D and Corporate Expertise Center). While the robotics business started at the end of 2016, the Drone business is older, since we started working on the subject in 2008. The goal of the Drones and Robots Lab is to provide the Group's BUs with tools that help them make improvements in security, cost and operational performance.

Let's take an example: this year we did field data collection on a Storengy site measuring 20 km2 and we were able to gather this information in a day, whereas by using "traditional" means this kind of inspection could take about thirty days. But that's not all! The inspection generated 40,000 photos and if they all had to be processed by hand the 30 days allocated would not have been enough and the solution would not have been profitable.

Beyond simply using tools like drones and robots, we work across the entire value chain. For this type of project we are working with the Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab to develop algorithms that allow us to optimize and automate treatments and therefore offer solutions that are much more efficient than current or conventional means.

What are the cases when you need to use a drone or a robot?

There are many use cases! They can involve detecting gas pipeline signalling beacons, monitoring corrosion on pylons, identifying hot spots or problems in photovoltaic plants, leaks in buried heating networks, cracks on wind turbine blades or for facility management... In short, the use cases affect virtually all of ENGIE's business lines. We are experts in using tools and sensors to capture the right raw data, but we also work in collaboration with other Labs and with companies in our ecosystem. We need CRIGEN's artificial intelligence teams to automate data processing, and we also need the Group's business experts.

Let’s take wind turbine inspections, for example. Currently, wind inspection experts often work at ground level with powerful sensors that allow them to identify and categorize defects on wind turbine blades. However, while the image quality obtained from the ground using zoom can be satisfactory, inspection takes a long time. Drones can go closer, change angles, and show more interesting details. They can even use different kinds of sensors that wouldn’t be usable from the ground. It is in the interest of CRIGEN R&D and ENGIE Research more generally to provide new technologies for the Group's BUs.

We are also working on automating systems to make autonomous drones and robots and to facilitate the use and integration of these tools within our business units. We are working to make smart drones and teaching them to recognize wind turbines and blades and to inspect the blades in succession. More generally, the Drones and Robots Lab is also developing bricks for technologies for indoor navigation.

Our goal is to put these tools in the hands of our colleagues so that they can help them on a daily basis, which is why we are working to make them easier to use and safer.