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NTT West Subsidiary Finds Burning Junction Box by Drone-based Inspection (1) (page 2)

AI used to improve analysis efficiency

2019/09/16 16:19
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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The NTT group began to use drones after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. Telecommunication equipment of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp (NTT East) was significantly damaged by the earthquake.

The damage was serious in telecommunication lines (trunk lines) installed on bridges in particular. In many places, communication was disrupted in the entire areas ahead divided by the collapsed bridges.

To restore telecommunication lines installed on bridges in a speedy manner, helicopters were generally used. However, there were a number of issues regarding costs and technologies. Because of such situations, the NTT group decided to actively use drones. Drones were a more realistic approach than helicopters, in terms of both costs and technologies. NTT East and NTT West introduced and came to use about 300 drones, respectively.

Bodies of drones that were widely used in those days were similar to aircraft, and the shape was different from bodies of current drones. They are sometimes called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and are larger than current drones.

The knowhow on operation of UAVs was accumulated through operations for recovery of communication equipment of the group. NTT West thought of offering the services for the equipment of other companies as a business, not limiting the services to the equipment of its own group. The company considered that inspection services are promising, as long-term needs are expected.

However, at that time, there was little need for inspections by aerial shooting. Solar panels at mega (large-scale) solar power plants seemed to be the only targets for the services. The company also thought that the policy to place priority on maintenance and inspection after start of operation following the revision of the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme was favorable for its new business.

NTT Facilities, which is part of the NTT group, has top shares in the development and operation, EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) and O&M (operation and maintenance) of solar power plants in Japan.