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Author's profile photo Angela Harvey

Technologies to Keep our Communities Safe: Drones for Fire Prevention

Technology to Keep Our Communities Safe

We are living in challenging times. What can we do when our world gets disrupted?

Technology companies are still providing tools to help companies thrive. But agility, quick thinking and pivoting existing solutions to tackle new challenges will be the traits of organizations that will continue to grow as we move into recovery.

SAP partnered with Intel to build a technology that can help utility companies optimize their operations and prevent disasters before they happen.

Vegetation encroachment can be a serious issue for utility companies. Overgrown trees can make accessing and servicing powerlines challenging and—worse—can lead to down power lines and forest fires. While pruning tree seems to be a simple remedy, in California alone there are 26,000 miles (42,000 km) of high voltage transmission lines1 and many are in remote, hard-to-access areas.

Using drones with cameras enabled we can easily view the aerial area and identify areas that need clearing. Using image recognition, we can identify areas of risk without the need for people to review the videos and images. The total risk is determined by processing images provided by the drone inspection.  The image processing software provides risk analysis and risk ratings based on criteria such as vegetation encroaching on electric facilities or equipment requiring maintenance.  Making this process even more proactive, work orders can be automatically triggered, sending crews to mitigate the risk or damage immediately preventing possible outages or fires.

When the worst-case scenario has happened and a fire starts, these same drones can be deployed so aerial footage can be captured to assess the areas worst impacted. The drones are also equipped with heat sensors that can help predict areas where the fire may be spreading. The data collected from the drones is made even more powerful when combined with information about soil penetration (which can indicate the risk of a fire spreading to dry areas). Geofences can be created using map data to help first responders prioritize highly populated areas and also identify which routes for disaster response will be faster and safer.

The field inspection data when compared with corporate systems of record provides the capability to ensure information about asset location and availability is up to date so maintenance can be effectively planned and issues responded to accordingly.

This image processing capability wouldn’t be possible without the Intel Insights platform. The platform provides the AI-powered visual intelligence required to perform the image recognition and risk prioritization. Handling massive amounts of data requires a highly-performant data platform, in this case it’s SAP HANA which enables in-memory performance and can handle streaming data in real-time, and also perform predictive analytics. By running SAP HANA on Intel Persistent Memory, data is able to persist for very rapid restarts in the event of an outage, and it can also handle larger data volumes than traditional DRAM memory—very relevant in data-intensive scenarios like processing real-time data.

By using SAP Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) capabilities provided within the SAP S/4 HANA platform, we can ensure that the risk analysis performed by the Intel Insights platform is made “Actionable”. Corrective actions are made possible through the automatic triggering of SAP EAM work orders which ensure the correct people with the required skills, material and equipment are dispatched to the correct location for remediation.

Considering the current global pandemic, we can imagine scenarios where this could help. For example, under social-distancing constraints having drones assess damage before sending technicians helps keep our communities and workers safe. But the framework could also be pivoted to address timely concerns, like managing personal safety equipment with EAM, or using areal information to ensure first responders have the fastest route to help people in need and to route them to hospitals with the capacity to help.

By SAP partnering with Intel we were able to strengthen our offerings and deliver a solution to help keep our communities and first responders safe. Our partnership was built to help organizations function in normal times, but we are honored to help them survive and then thrive in abnormal times as well.

Learn more about our joint solutions at, watch a demo of this technology addressing a smart cities scenario or try the 90 day free trial on Microsoft Azure.



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