Power producer Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) has bought two drones to inspect its plants at its Olkaria geothermal fields in Naivasha.
KenGen said the high-end unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) bought at Sh28.7 million would be deployed in the vast Olkaria Fields for surveillance.
“They will be deployed in the Olkaria Fields to help in operations and maintenance,” KenGen told the press
“They are high-end drones which can transmit high-quality images.”
KenGen chief supply chain officer Lois Gitau said in a tender disclosure filing that local firm Finton Logistics won the deal to supply the drones at Sh28.7 million.
KenGen joins utilities in other parts of the world, which have turned to drones to scour large power plants and thousands of kilometres of grids for damage and leaks in an attempt to avoid network failures that cost them billions of shillings a year.
At present, firms like KenGen and Kenya Power largely use helicopters to inspect their critical infrastructure. But flying robots that can travel dozens of kilometres without stopping are seen as the next big thing for power companies.
Thermal and zoom imaging placed on drones can help detect defects that then can be fixed before they become a problem, according to experts.
Italy’s Snam, Europe’s biggest gas utility, said three years ago it tested prototypes of long-distance drones that fly at low altitudes over pipelines and power lines.
French energy utility RTE has also tested a long-distance drone, which flew about 50km inspecting transmission lines and sent back data that allowed technicians to virtually model a section of the grid.