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Utilizing Visual & Thermal Video Analytics

Automated video systems provide utilities with real-time visualization of the substation allowing them to make key decisions designed to prevent outages, save time and reduce costs.

Transmission and Substation Design and Operation (Technical Papers)
Transmission and Substation Design and Operation (Technical Papers)

Substation video systems use sophisticated multifunctional sensors in conjunction with video and thermal analytics to provide realtime information for input into substation maintenance and operations programs.

Using the latest technology in video automation, these systems monitor key points in the substation providing visual and thermal imaging that ties into the utility visualization and operation system (e.g. SCADA).

Operators are provided real-time visualization of the substation assets and are automatically notified when normal operating conditions are not being met.

Visual & Thermal Monitoring Systems for Substation Automation

Substation monitoring systems differ from conventional video systems in function and application. A substation monitoring system is designed to give utilities a real-time view of the operational status of high value assets at remote substations from both the visual and thermal perspective.

This differs from the conventional video system that is focused on physical security. A substation monitoring system can provide both operational and security functions.

The data obtained from video and thermal sensors deployed throughout the substation is processed by an analytics engine in a server located on premise at the substation. These systems monitor the condition on site and determine if an alert should be sent to the operations and control center.

Embedded Video Snapshot
Figure 1 – Embedded Video Snapshot

A typical substation can have several video and thermal sensors deployed and it is not possible for operators to constantly monitor them all, especially when multiple substations are involved. Traditional video systems require continuous manual human monitoring of a live stream of video.

Video and thermal analytics automate the monitoring process and provide the alerts directly to utility operational software systems, such as SCADA, when further action is required.

Operators can open the alert message to view a video snap-shot of the event and open a real-time video feed from the substation to view the live scene (Figure 1).

All the video and alerts are recorded at the substation for review and archiving.

Visual Monitoring and Analytics

Visual monitoring has multiple operational, maintenance and safety applications in a substation that can be done without sending a crew to the site:


  • Automated detection of events such as arc flash and switch arm movement
  • Confirmation of remote controlled operations such as switch opening/closing
  • Detection of animals around lines, switches, transformers


  • Ensuring safe conditions for the public and work crews at remote sites
  • Witness and record that proper operational procedures are followed
  • Intrusion detection, tampering, vandalism

To use the input from all video cameras installed in all substations for the tasks mentioned above, a constant monitoring is required. However, simultaneously monitoring the video channels from all substation is an impossible task for one human operator.

Here is where the use of video analytics becomes crucial. Video analytics have been used for security video systems for many years. Most of these analytics utilize algorithms that subtract the picture background from a video feed then analyze the shape and behavior of the objects left in the foreground.

All these techniques have been mostly used to create video analytics routines for security purposes (e.g. motion detection, virtual tripwires, loitering alarms, etc.), however, using the same concepts and algorithms, analytics can be manipulated to perform functions that are specific to electric power applications.

Explosion due to a lightning arrester failure captured by a substation video monitoring system
Figure 2 – Explosion due to a lightning arrester failure captured by a substation video monitoring system

For example, if the analytic is fine tuned to a specific area and type of movement, the analytics can determine the position of a disconnect switch arm and if it has moved. Similarly, analytics can be tuned and focused on the switch contacts to detect an arc flash event that can provide an operator information about an unintentional event or operation.

Problems in a substation like a fire or explosion can also be detected with this type of analytics (Figure 2 above).

Title:Transmission and Substation Design and Operation – Technical Papers – TSDOS
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Transmission and Substation Design and Operation - Technical Papers
Transmission and Substation Design and Operation – Technical Papers

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