AVANGRID Responds to Storms From High in the Sky

There’s a new kid on AVANGRID’s storm response team.

The name is ARIES.

The team stands in front of the ARIES I trailer, stationed at Danbury Municipal Airport, Executive Air Services (FBO). (l-r) Marco Antonio Mendez Gonzalez, Inmaculada Sanz Santidrian, Nuria Cortes Moradell, La Wanda Ervin, Kevin Cox, Tom Evans, and Jakshylyk Urmatbek.

The team stands in front of the ARIES I trailer, stationed at Danbury Municipal Airport, Executive Air Services (FBO). (l-r) Marco Antonio Mendez Gonzalez, Inmaculada Sanz Santidrian, Nuria Cortes Moradell, La Wanda Ervin, Kevin Cox, Tom Evans, and Jakshylyk Urmatbek.

The January 20 snow and ice storm that impacted AVANGRID service territories in four states marked a new era in storm response at AVANGRID. The debut of ARIES - Automated Rapid Infrastructure Evaluation System – is a game changer for how NYSEG and RG&E gets the lights back on and keeps customers and employees safe. That weekend, a single-engine airplane lifted off in blustery conditions from a small airport in Danbury, Conn. and flew over parts of NYSEG’s nearby Brewster service territory.

Through an opening on the underside of the plane was the heart of the ARIES project, a LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor. The LiDAR sensor collects data about storm-related infrastructure damage like downed lines, broken poles, damaged transformers and even floods and downed trees. The data is transferred to AVANGRID employees on the ground at a command center, now located at the Danbury airport. The data provides a fast and accurate assessment of the storm damage and allows ground restoration crews to get to work quicker and provide customers with an accurate estimated time of restoration.

When ARIES is deployed, areas with hazardous conditions, such as blocked or washed out roads can be surveyed safer and quicker than before.

Immaculada Sanz Santidrian, Kevin Cox and Nuria Cortes Moradell review steps to run ARIES

Immaculada Sanz Santidrian, Kevin Cox and Nuria Cortes Moradell review steps to run ARIES

“Aries is the result of a significant event that presented a problem for both the electricity and natural gas operations teams – hurricanes with flooding – and the collaboration of a team that was energized to create a solution,” said La Wanda Ervin, the ARIES project leader and Manager of Operational Readiness for AVANGRID.

The roots of the ARIES project date to Superstorm Sandy in 2012, when wide swaths of NYSEG and RG&E territory were damaged. In 2013, the operating companies began discussions with Lockheed Martin and NYSERDA about its data-analytics tools and how they could improve storm response. In 2014, Lockheed Martin, NYSERDA and NYSEG/RG&E provided funding for the proof of concept stage and completed dry runs using a helicopter mounted with a LiDAR sensor and NYSEG/RG&E liked what they saw. A partnership with Lockheed Martin was struck in 2015 and a prototype system was developed. That system became ARIES.

Ervin said the January 20 storm debut of ARIES provided an excellent baseline of ARIES’ capabilities. In two hours of flight time, large amounts of data was successfully collected and transferred to the ARIES team in the command center, and the process of using the data is being fine-tuned as the project moves forward.

Nuria Cortes Moradell, Inmaculada Sanz Santidrian, La Wanda Ervin, Marco Antonio Mendez Gonzalez, Tom Evans, and Kevin Cox. Missing from the photo is Jakshylyk Urmatbek (L-R)

Nuria Cortes Moradell, Inmaculada Sanz Santidrian, La Wanda Ervin, Marco Antonio Mendez Gonzalez, Tom Evans, and Kevin Cox. Missing from the photo is Jakshylyk Urmatbek (L-R)

“As with most new projects, as we stand them up, there are adjustments to be made,” Ervin said.

The LiDAR sensor can be used with a helicopter, plane or drones when regulations relax the line of sight requirement. The pilot and sensor operator are not AVANGRID employees. Ervin credited the team of AVANGRID LiDAR Support analysts for the successful debut: Tom Evans, Nuria Cortes Moradell, Inmaculada Sanz Santidrian, Kevin Cox, Jakshylyk Urmatbek and Marco Mendez Gonzalez.