Optelos Brings AI and Digital Twinning to the Sky

Principal Analyst, Advanced Analytics

Summary Bullets:

• Businesses depend on infrastructure to deliver energy, communications, and related services. Regular inspections of infrastructure are critical to maintaining a consistent supply.

• Optelos software utilizes the drone camera, providing actionable insights for the inspection of infrastructure such as damaged insulators in the electrical grid.

Asset inspections represent a significant cost for companies involved in industrial processes. According to GE Capital, on a worldwide basis, companies and governments spend $40 billion per year on asset inspections. Historically, inspecting and auditing infrastructure involves placing employees in dangerous places such as chemical refineries or underground ventilation shafts. Utilizing drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) removes the injury risk to employees who no longer need to be exposed to site-specific dangers. This reduces the likelihood of serious injury to workers still using traditional inspection methods that require the inspection team to be physically present.

Much of the excitement around UAVs for inspections focuses on the economic advantages of using a machine versus a team of human workers. For instance, the cost of insuring an onsite team can easily run into tens of millions of dollars. A UAV rigged with a high-definition camera can be insured for $500,000 coverage. Bridge inspections represent a never-ending expense for state and local governments. However, by using a UAV, local governments can reduce inspection costs by $10,200 per bridge and reduce project time by 20%.

Although the economic advantages of UAVs are well documented, manual processes (and siloed) data can slow the workflow to six days. According to Optelos, 70% of the data collected by UAVs is useless due to poor storage management and software that does not deliver the detail necessary to analyze the images collected. Optelos has built a platform to enhance the post-flight workflow by creating a unified platform that collects unstructured data from a UAV flight and transforms it into a database optimized for AI image analysis. Optelos offers zero-code models and automated labeling to speed deployment.

Announced in October 2022, Optelos added digital twinning to its platform. LiDAR-generated 3D point clouds (a point cloud is a collection of tiny individual points plotted in 3D space) are used to create a 3D digital twin of an infrastructure asset. The digital twin can be generated over a fixed timeline to highlight changes such as corrosion before they create safety or compliance issues. As Optelos is the patent holder, this should give the company an advantage over competitors such as DJI.

Although Optelos has developed a platform that improves the analysis of UAV-collected images, it is a startup that is always looking for funding, making it vulnerable should the economy continue to deteriorate. In addition, wireless connectivity will need to be improved to incorporate cellular coverage. Finally, both the Optelos platform and the UAV will need to strengthen their security to better protect sensitive information during a flight or once it has been stored on company servers.

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