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Satellites and Vegetation Management: Lessons from Multiple Grid-Wide Rollouts

By November 4, 2021No Comments

The importance of utility vegetation management is growing as weather events become more severe; satellites can help.

More utilities are adding satellite analytics to their toolbox in their vegetation management process. LiveEO, a satellite analytics company, has rolled out its vegetation management solution with utilities around the globe. In the following paragraphs, we share some of the things we have learned during the process.

Regardless of if we are talking about electric cars, zoom calls or GPS navigation, when new technologies emerge, it takes a while for them to make their way to both people’s lives and business processes. For satellite-based vegetation management, we are now entering a phase where enough utilities have adopted the technology on a large scale to better assess its business impact as well as the opportunities and limitations it brings with it. LiveEO has introduced its Satellite-Based Vegetation Management Solution to utility customers on four continents. In this article, we share what we have learned during these projects, which could be interesting for other utilities that are looking to implement satellite analytics.

The importance of utility vegetation management is growing as weather events become more severe. Also, there is growing awareness of the topic and demands by the public to make the grid more resilient against the ramifications of climate change. Consequently, utilities are exploring new technologies to limit the risk posed by tree conductor conflict.

Satellite analytics is one technology that has recently made its way into the toolbox of utility vegetation managers. By analyzing up-to-date satellite imagery with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), companies such as LiveEO can provide utilities with a grid-wide overview of vegetation along their network. This information contains location data as well as insight into the height, vitality and species of the trees. LiveEO’s solution translates this information into risk classes and actionable work orders that can be understood and worked with by people who have no background in geospatial science.

LiveEO has developed its Satellite-Based Vegetation Management Solution into a mature product that is in use grid-wide by a number of utilities around the globe. During these rollouts, we have learned from and with our customers.  We share that insight with you in the following paragraphs:

Align technology with utility strategy

What are the utility’s priorities and what are its challenges? Is the service area especially prone to wildfires or storms? Do the utilities operate medium- or high-voltage lines? All these factors influence what the optimal solution looks like and what data sources are best suited to bring the most value to the utility. LiveEO is data-agnostic and processes satellite data from different providers in varying resolutions, depending on the needs of the customer.

Evaluate the initial situation of data and processes and tailor the offering

When it comes to internal processes, no two utilities are the same. Some utility tree and vegetation management (UVM) programs rely on pen, paper and excel sheets; other utilities work with highly complex AI-based risk models. A satellite-based solution will likely add value to both scenarios, but the way the newly available data is integrated in existing workflows will be different. LiveEO offers its customers different ways to work with the data–for example, with its proprietary web and mobile applications but also native integrations with asset management systems such as SAP and Infor.

Clearly communicate expectations and tech capabilities

What can satellites do, and what can they not do? As is typically the case with new technologies, non-experts have a hard time judging the capabilities of the solution. We have found that it is essential to thoroughly educate the utility and align expectations early on in the process. This way, the customer can make an informed decision, align expectations and goals, and ultimately get the most out of the solution.

Take the entire utility organization and subcontractors on the journey

For any new system or process to be successfully adopted within an organization, it is essential that not only those making the decision, but also those who will work with the solution eventually, are on board. At LiveEO, we have made good experiences with also including and onboarding subcontractors. People in the field often have a different perspective on processes. Input we’ve received from our customers’ subcontractors has proven to be an invaluable resource in developing a web-app and mobile-app that are tailored to the needs of both parties and.

To summarize the learnings from rolling out our solution on a large scale with multiple utilities around the world: Communication is key.

By listening closely to truly understand the utility’s needs and expectations, we have been able to provide individual packages that cater specifically to respective UVM programs, maximizing the value that satellite analytics can bring to organizations.



Sven Przywarra is the Co-Founder and CEO Business at LiveEO.