fast forward at distributech

Electrical Grid Surveying – Saving Millions in Outage Mitigation  

Table of Contents

How thermal inspections and panoramic imagery are transforming electrical grid surveying

Explore how thermal inspections is transform electrical grid surveying and discover:

  • How thermal inspections revolutionize electrical grid surveying.
  • The challenges in U.S. utilities, stressing the need for innovation in data collection and asset assessment during thermal inspections.
  • Explore the transformative impact of integrating thermal inspections with panoramic imagery, reshaping electrical utility surveying standards.
Fast Forward at Distributech using the Mosaic X panoramic 360 camera

$1 Million in outage mitigation.”

Dusty, Founder and CEO of Fast Forward

The Fundamentals of Electrical Grid Surveying

The functioning of the electrical grid is the cornerstone of modern society, powering homes, businesses, and industries across the United States. However, with over 15,000 different entities responsible for utilities in the U.S., there is a pressing need for vast improvements in data collection existing utilities.

These challenges underscore the necessity for innovative solutions. Let’s explore the pressing need for improvements in electrical utility surveying, placing a special emphasis on the potential of combining thermal inspections with panoramic imagery.

The Current State of Utilities in the U.S. 

To understand the need for improved electrical utility surveying, let’s look at the current state of utilities in the United States. The nation’s power grid, though strong, faces challenges from aging infrastructure, rising demand, and the crucial requirement for more accurate monitoring and maintenance.

Ernst & Young’s (EY) analysis highlights that utilities can find lasting solutions to the energy trilemma of reliability, affordability, and sustainability. The key lies in investing in foundational capabilities, covering infrastructure and systems.

These capabilities involve managing suppliers and partners effectively, prioritizing digital leadership, adopting renewables and emerging tech on a large scale, building flexibility into the energy system, and putting customers and employees first.

As electricity demand grows, so does the need for a smoothly operating electrical grid. However, current methods of data collection during thermal inspections are lacking, leading to overlooked issues, inefficiencies, and higher maintenance costs.

Recognizing the importance of addressing these challenges, the focus turns to innovative solutions that can transform how utilities survey their assets.

Integrating Thermal Inspections with Panoramic Imagery

A significant advancement in electrical utility surveying involves the integration of thermal inspections with panoramic imagery. Integrating thermal inspections with panoramic imagery represents a significant advancement in electrical utility surveying, pioneered by one of our customers – Fast Forward AI. This innovative approach involves integrating the data from thermal inspections with panoramic imagery, setting a new standard in the industry.

To fully grasp the potential impact of this integration, it’s crucial to recognize how thermal and panoramic imagery layers complement each other. Thermal inspections excel at detecting anomalies like overheating or electrical faults, which may elude visual detection alone.

It’s worth noting that thermal sensors can operate effectively at any time of day, allowing for comprehensive monitoring regardless of lighting conditions. This ensures that potential issues are identified promptly.

Moreover, the addition of panoramic imagery offers a comprehensive daytime perspective. This perspective enhances our understanding of infrastructure conditions, providing valuable context for those managing and maintaining the grid. Whether conducting visual assessments or planning fieldwork hundreds of miles away, the combination of thermal inspections and panoramic imagery equips utility professionals with the insights needed to make informed decisions and take proactive measures.

Panoramic Views and AI Analysis for Comprehensive Infrastructure Insight

Current Limitations Faced by Utilities

Despite technological advancements, utilities continue to face challenges in obtaining a complete understanding of their infrastructure. Traditional methods often lack the depth of information necessary for proactive decision-making, such as identifying subtle anomalies or predicting potential failures before they occur.

For example, traditional visual inspections may miss early signs of deterioration or damage, leading to unexpected outages or safety hazards. Additionally, manual data collection processes can be time-consuming and prone to errors, hindering the efficiency of maintenance efforts.

Incorporating thermal inspections and panoramic imagery addresses these shortcomings by offering a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of infrastructure conditions. By leveraging these advanced technologies, utilities can enhance their ability to detect issues early, prioritize maintenance tasks, and ultimately improve the reliability and resilience of their systems.

Panoramic Images: A Daytime Perspective

Enter panoramic images – the solution to incomplete data collection during thermal inspections. These images offer a crucial daytime perspective that enhances the overall understanding of asset conditions. The addition of this layer ensures that potential issues are not only detected but thoroughly assessed, allowing for targeted interventions.

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Data Analysis 

To further bridge the gap in understanding infrastructure conditions, the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) in data analysis becomes paramount. AI algorithms can process vast amounts of data from thermal inspections and panoramic imagery, identifying patterns and anomalies that might go unnoticed through traditional methods. This leap in analytical capabilities contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the grid’s health.

Use Cases in Electrical Utility Workflow

Virtual Visits: A Crucial Element

Virtual visits have become a cornerstone of electrical utility workflow scenarios. The ability to remotely access site conditions proves crucial in saving time and resources while ensuring that accurate and comprehensive data is collected.

Importance of Remote Access 

Consider scenarios where physical visits may be challenging or time-consuming, such as in remote or hazardous locations. The ability to conduct virtual inspections not only enhances efficiency but also enables utilities to address issues promptly, minimizing downtime and maximizing operational efficiency.

Advances in Remote Sensing Technologies 

The evolution of remote sensing technologies plays a significant role in expanding the scope of virtual visits. Drones equipped with thermal cameras and high-resolution panoramic imaging devices can traverse vast areas, capturing real-time data without the need for physical presence. This not only enhances safety but also provides a detailed, up-to-date understanding of infrastructure conditions.

Cloud-Based Data Storage and Accessibility

The importance of cloud-based data storage and accessibility cannot be overstated. The ability to store and retrieve massive datasets remotely facilitates collaboration, analysis, and decision-making from anywhere in the world. Cloud platforms ensure that relevant stakeholders have access to the latest information, fostering a more agile and responsive approach to utility management.

Success, Challenges, and Collaborative Solutions in Electrical Utility Surveying

Provider’s Success

Navigating through the current industry scenario, it’s worth noting the success of a provider serving customers. This success underscores the growing demand for innovative solutions in the electrical utility surveying landscape.

Fulfillment Challenges 

However, success often comes with its set of challenges. The provider, despite its achievements, faces fulfillment challenges, shedding light on the continuous need for improvement and innovation in the ever-evolving electrical utility sector.

Industry Collaboration and Partnerships 

To overcome fulfillment challenges and navigate the complexities of the industry, collaborations and partnerships become instrumental. Forming alliances with other industry players, technology providers, and research institutions fosters a collaborative ecosystem focused on driving innovation and addressing the evolving needs of the electrical utility sector.

Enhancing Electrical Grid Surveys with Mosaic

Other Mosaic customers have been conducting electrical grid surveys by combining other sensors (including LiDAR) for a more robust data set. Here’s a compelling example:

Dymaxion, a Colombian engineering company, faced two major challenges with mobile surveying projects: inspecting a vast electrical grid and assessing road conditions. For the electrical grid project covering nearly 30,000 kilometers, they needed detailed data collection for analysis. Mosaic 51, our first 360° camera, provided high-definition imaging crucial for identifying grid issues. Integrating it with LiDAR enhanced data accuracy and flexibility, while non-vendor-locked data eased post-processing. In extreme weather, the Mosaic 51 proved resilient, aiding road inspections too.

Precise timestamps ensured synchronized data collection, crucial for accurate analysis. Dymaxion’s dynamic approach and Mosaic 51’s capabilities demonstrate how innovative solutions overcome complex challenges, ensuring project success and client trust.

“We had to make sure the team involved in the asset inspection can zoom in and detect if there is damage, for example on the transformer or on the connectors with the wiring or on any part of the poles, like corrosion for example. So basically, you need to have digital twins of all the network components at hand to know which parts need to be replaced. You also need to know the exact condition of the electrical grid to be able to plan the maintenance efficiently and strategically.”

Gustavo Guevara, Dymaxion s.a.s. CEO

Increased Value of Data Collection

By incorporating both thermal and panoramic layers, electrical utility providers can significantly increase the value of their data collection efforts. This comprehensive approach empowers decision-makers with more nuanced insights, enabling them to make informed choices regarding maintenance, upgrades, and overall system reliability of their electrical grid.

Industry Advancements in Thermal Imaging 

Delving deeper into the world of thermal inspections, recent advancements in thermal imaging technologies have further enhanced the accuracy and sensitivity of these inspections. Higher resolution thermal cameras and improved analytics algorithms contribute to a more precise identification of potential issues, ensuring a proactive and preventive approach to maintenance.

Key Pillars in Advancing Electrical Grid Surveying 

Electrical Grid Surveying 

Importance of Combining Thermal Sensors with Panoramic Images

At the core of this transformative approach lies the seamless joining of thermal sensor data with panoramic images. This combination enriches end-user value by offering a more comprehensive understanding of infrastructure conditions.

The Role of Standards and Interoperability

As the industry advances, establishing standards and ensuring interoperability become key considerations. A standardized approach to data collection, analysis, and reporting ensures consistency across the sector, facilitating the seamless integration of various technologies and solutions.

Training and Skill Development

With the introduction of cutting-edge technologies, the need for skilled professionals proficient in their use becomes evident. Investing in training and skill development programs ensures that industry personnel are equipped to leverage the full potential of advanced surveying technologies.

Regulatory Landscape and Compliance

Navigating the regulatory landscape is crucial for the successful implementation of new technologies. Collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies can streamline the approval process and ensure that innovations align with established safety and environmental standards.

Stakeholder Engagement and Community Outreach

In the pursuit of technological advancements, maintaining open communication with stakeholders and engaging with local communities is essential. Transparent communication fosters trust, addresses concerns, and ensures that the benefits of innovative solutions are realized by all parties involved.

Insights from Dusty, Founder, and CEO of Fast Forward

In a video shared via LinkedIn, Dusty, Founder and CEO of Fast Forward, talks about the substantial cost savings for electric utilities with proactive thermal inspections. He highlights the impact of the combined approach at Distributech, showcasing projects using the Mosaic X panoramic 360 camera, saying:

“… we can save utilities hundreds of thousands by being proactive with thermal inspections. The Mosaic X, a panoramic 360 camera, has been a game-changer for us. Mounted on our car, it’s super easy to use, and the service from Mosaic has been outstanding. Thanks to Mosaic, we’ve automated line patrols for electric utilities.”

“We’ve been really happy with the Mosaic X camera at Fast Forward. It has really helped us build an awesome solution for automated powerline patrol!”

Shaping the Future of  Electrical Grid Surveying

Looking ahead, the combination of thermal inspections and panoramic imagery serves as a guiding force for the electrical grid surveying industry, steering it towards a more efficient, knowledgeable, and resilient future.

The call to action echoes through the corridors of innovation, urging stakeholders to collaborate, invest in research and development, and collectively shape the future of utility surveying for the benefit of society as a whole.

The journey to revolutionize electrical grid surveying is ongoing, propelled by advancements in technology, collaborative efforts, and a shared commitment to sustainability.

The fusion of thermal inspections and panoramic imagery, exemplified by innovative solutions like the Mosaic X mobile mapping camera system, holds the key to unlocking new possibilities and ensuring the continued reliability of the electrical grid in the face of evolving challenges.


Summarizing the journey, we reflect on the transformative impact of Mosaic camera systems on electrical grid surveying. The combination of thermal inspections and panoramic imagery emerges as a game-changer, promising a more efficient and comprehensive approach to electrical utility surveying.

Recognizing the role of emerging technologies in reshaping the electrical utility surveying landscape, we acknowledge the need for continuous innovation to meet the evolving demands of the sector. The article encourages industry players to embrace change and explore innovative solutions to stay ahead in the dynamic landscape.

In conclusion, this article encourages electric utilities to explore the innovative solutions provided by Mosaic for improved efficiency and cost savings. By embracing these advanced surveying technologies, utilities can not only address current challenges but also future-proof their infrastructure, ensuring the reliable delivery of power to communities nationwide.

Contact our team today to learn more.