POWER DRONE is a data analytics company using drones for automated inspections of overhead power lines and other energy infrastructure such as wind & solar parks and underground pipelines. The company has developed its own software platform for data analytics and asset classification applying AI & machine learning algorithms. With its preventive maintenance service, POWER DRONE helps utilities optimize operational cost and save considerable budgets from expensive emergency repairs and unsold electricity by avoiding unwanted electricity shut-downs. Interview with Yordan Merakov, CEO of POWER DRONE. Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company? Yordan Merakov: Our main focus is the inspection of overhead power lines and we work closely with the Electric Distribution Companies (EDC) and Transmission System Operators (TSO). Thousands of kilometers of grid have to be inspected regularly every year, most of them situated in hard-to-access areas. With our solution we perform the inspection faster and detect all critical spots on the grid causing the emergency shut-downs. As a consequence, we save our clients operational cost and extra budgets for expensive emergency repairs, as well as unsold electricity to end-clients. At the same time, we perform asset classification of every inspected object and deliver a seamless GIS import and integration of the processed data saving our clients lots of manual work and valuable time. E.E: What’s the news about new products? Y.M: Currently, we are upgrading our data processing platform adding new functionalities and optimizing the work flow. We grant our customers a direct access to the platform making use of all visual and data analytics reports meeting their specific needs and demands. The bottom line of all these developments is to shorten the processing time through automation and deliver a ready-to-use product imported directly into the GIS systems of our clients saving time and resources for additional, mostly manual, data processing. DCIM101MEDIADJI_0590.JPG Next to the usual visual inspection of the assets, recently we started using lidar sensors attached to our drones in order to deliver 3D asset model reconstruction, precise measurements of distances, line corridor and dangerous vegetation. Our overall goal is to secure a complete service to the utilities providing preventive technical maintenance, asset classification & integration and 3D asset modeling (digital twins) for various purposes. E.E: What are the ranges of products? Y.M: The services mentioned above can be offered both as a bunch of services, but also separately depending on the specific needs of our clients. We always strive to automate the data gathering and most importantly, the data processing which is usually a very time-consuming and costly process, and requires a manual work. Therefore, we aim to deliver a product which can be integrated into the existing systems of our customers and can secure a maximum level of technical and financial benefits. E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active? Y.M: Compared to US and Western-European countries, the Bulgarian market is still underdeveloped and most of the customers remain conservative and not convinced of the benefits of drone inspections. Nevertheless, the utilities are trying to optimize the increasing labor cost and extra budgets for emergency repairs due to bad grid. Besides Bulgaria, we see the Central-European countries as a natural playground for market expansion due to lots of grid similarities and maintenance problems. E.E: What can you tell us about market trends? Y.M: These days more and more utilities recognize and adopt the drone inspections as a beneficial tool for optimizing and saving cost. Worldwide there is definitely an untapped potential and some regions/countries are lagging behind the recent trends. The good thing is that drone technology and related software is advancing rapidly and offers faster and cheaper solutions. We can even see some EDCs and TSOs who develop and create in-house capabilities; however, most of the customers still prefer the drone inspections and corresponding data analytics as an external service provided by specialized companies. E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed? Y.M: Two major parallel developments can be outlined. On one hand, we witness better and better drone products which are the pre-condition for faster and cheaper data gathering on site. At the same time, we see the development of specialized software for automated data processing applying AI & machine learning algorithms. The drones available on the market offer already at affordable prices combo solutions for visual, thermal and LIDAR inspections. The variety of products and special features of the drones create new market niches and bring additional added value. Nevertheless, the most critical point remains the data processing & analytics and integration, which bring the highest value for the customers. That is why the POWER DRONE team keeps on upgrading our data analytics platform adding new functionalities and features for our clients. E.E: What estimations do you have for 2022? Y.M: After the difficult 2020-2021 COVID years that have affected negatively most of the businesses, we are positive and look forward to extending our operations in Bulgaria and expand on new markets. We are confident that we can help our customers with a quality service resulting in budget optimization and cost saving using the latest drone and software solutions.