Supervising electricity and mining companies with drones and virtual reality in Peru: Case study on the Energy and Mining Regulator (Osinergmin)

Osinergmin (Organismo Supervisor de la Inversión en Energía y Minería) is the economic regulatory and infrastructure safety supervisor for the energy and mining sectors. In the electricity sector, Osinergmin supervises the compliance with regulations dealing with the generation, the transmission and the distribution of electrical energy. It also oversees the fulfilment of concession contracts in relation to these activities. More particularly the department in charge of supervising compliance with regulations and obligations imposed by concession contracts is the División de Supervisión de Electricidad (DSE).

In the mining sector, Osinergmin supervises compliance with technical regulations relating to mining infrastructure, installations and safety of operations for medium1 and large2 mining companies. These regulations include, for instance, the state of geo-technical structures, ventilation and transport vehicles. The department in charge of supervising these activities is the Gerencia de Supervisión Minera (GSM).

Osinergmin supervises 172 mining operation sites; it also supervises the infrastructure of 57 electricity generation companies, 18 transmission companies and 20 distribution companies. These facilities are located all around the country; many of them are located in remote areas that are difficult to access.

To fulfill its supervising functions, Osinergmin needs information regarding the facilities. Regulations vest Osinergmin with inspection and sanctioning powers. Information and evidence are collected at the occasion of site visits and are included in supervision reports. Corrective or preventive measures are taken in case the supervisors find evidence of breach of regulations.

Supervising electrical and mining facilities is complicated and risky. It is sometimes logistically difficult to perform the assessment of electrical and mining infrastructures. For instance, insufficient time can be a constraint: transmission lines are often very long and it generally takes a lot of time to inspect them (it takes on average eight hours to supervise one kilometre of a transmission line). In consequence, it happens that the supervision personnel cannot perform in practice an exhaustive control of a specific electrical infrastructure site due to time restrictions. In addition, topographical and weather conditions can make supervision activities risky as it happened for instance during the climate pattern known as “El Niño”, where heavy rains caused rivers flood.

The collection of visual material, such as photographs and videos, is very helpful for supervisors to complete reports and significantly improves the quality of supervision activities. However, this collection takes time and requires abundant resources. In addition, once the personnel leaves the site, it is very expensive to go back and gather any additional information.

In mining sites, the supervision process requires gathering detailed information about the land surface. Conventional mining supervision is based on topography techniques that often generate unreliable information or poorly detailed information of mining geotechnical components. This problem is particularly frequent on tailing dams and rough mountain terrains in which access is difficult.

Not getting the detailed data might undermine the supervision work and imply risk for mining operations and an increased risk of disaster for people living in the influence area of the mining site as well as for the environment.

In order to deal with the above-mentioned challenges and to improve the supervision processes and outcomes, Osinergmin relies on two technological tools that facilitate the work of supervisors in particular in places that are difficult to reach or under dangerous conditions. These tools allow supervisors to significantly increase the availability of image and video without increasing the time allocated to collect them. This substantially diminishes the number of staff hours needed to complete a supervision in locations where access is difficult. Another additional benefit is to reduce risks taken by personnel, increasing safety.

The first tool is the use of drones gathering data. This pilot project was initiated in 2016. The information collected thanks to this tool enables Osinergmin to:

  • Monitor critical infrastructure.

  • Reduce up to more than 50% the effective average supervision times, covering multiple facilities and components inspected and reduce the number of inspection brigades Get access to high quality images from every angle while keeping supervisors safe.

  • Record and review images that can be added to the supervision file in order to decide what actions must be taken to guarantee the quality of the electricity service.

For mining infrastructure, the information collected by drones enables Osinergmin to:

  • Create images of the infrastructure for analysing its condition and storing historical information of that component to evaluate relevant changes over time.

  • Verify whether topographic parameters are within the requirements set by the ministry of mining.

  • Create 3D models to test technical parameters and run stress scenario simulation for infrastructure failure.

The second tool is a pilot project to use drones equipped with a 360° HD video recording equipment and a video processing software to produce virtual reality tour of the supervised infrastructure. The combination of these two technologies enable the supervisors:

  • To have a complete record from every point of view of the infrastructure and to redisplay the visit, at the supervisor´s will, from the desired angle, and focus on any detail of the infrastructure.

  • To have on-line access to the information and redisplay the visit using a cellular application.

Gathering data for electricity facilities supervision using drones and virtual reality has proved to be an effective innovation. Thanks to it, Osinergmin now has access to high precision data to evaluate the condition of the infrastructure component. Virtual reality data has added the possibility to display on demand the supervision visit and to focus on details that might had not taken into account during the site supervision visit.

The results obtained thanks to the use of drones were:

  • A reduction of the time spent on the site supervision: with the conventional supervision process, it took on average 8 hours to supervise one kilometer of a transmission line (considering a buffer of 50 meters). Since the drones were introduced, it takes about 2 hours at most to supervise 6 kilometers of a transmission line (and the buffer supervised can be expended up to 2 kilometres).

  • An increase of capacities to detect failures and imperfections: Some of them cannot be detected with the conventional supervision process but can be detected with drones.

  • Access to restricted areas as result of the climate pattern (“El Niño”). The use of drones allowed to identify 50 possible risk situations, which could not be possible to identify without the drones, because it involves a dangerous situation to the supervisors.

  • A reduction of the average supervision costs from USD 820 to USD 380.

The results obtained thanks to the use of virtual reality technology were:

  • An increase in the volume and the quality of the information about the supervised infrastructure, and the possibility to display on demand the supervision visit on a cellphone.

  • A reduction of the time spent on the site supervision. With the conventional supervision process, it took 18 days to supervise 44 aerogenerators, one electrical substation and 12 transmission line structures. Since virtual reality was introduced, it takes about 2 days at most.

  • A reduction of the average supervision costs from USD 5 802 to USD 5 268.

As a result, duration and monetary cost of the supervision activities are reduced. Indeed, the quality of service for citizens and industries improved.

For mining supervision gathering data using drones has also proved to be an effective innovation. Thanks to it, Osinergmin now has access to high precision data to evaluate the condition of the infrastructure component. Photogrammetry data has improved the supervision process and outcomes. As a result, Osinergmin can timely take the appropriate measures to ensure the compliance of mining regulations.

Most of the supervision activities that Osinergmin realises are done by contractors. So far, Osinergmin has contracted regular supervision activities with standard technology and, separately, it has contracted specialised companies to gather information with drones. Then, Osinergmin has co-ordinated the supervision processes of both companies.

Osinergmin is considering two approaches to fully integrate drone and 360° HD video recording equipment and video processing software into its regular supervision procedures.

The first approach is to keep separate contractors for drone and 360° HD video recording equipment and video processing software and for supervision activities that use that information as an input. This approach has the advantage of exploiting the comparative advantages of drone companies and supervision activities companies.

The second approach is to bundle both services, making compulsory for supervision contractors to have – or subcontract –drone and 360° HD video recording capabilities. This approach has the advantage of having a single contractor to interact with, but it compels the supervision activities contractor to have or hire drone and 360° HD video recording equipment and video processing software capabilities.


← 1. Mining sites capable of processing between 350 and 5 000 tons per day, or companies whose operation are limited to prospecting activities, extraction of non-metallic minerals or storage of mineral concentrate.

← 2. Mining sites capable of processing more than 5 000 tons per day.

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