City lights at night

The Department of Energy announced yesterday the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Fiscal Year 2017 Phase 1 and Phase II Awards. The SBIRs and STTRs are Congressionally-mandated efforts allowing federal agencies with large research and development budgets to set aside a small portion of their funding for small businesses. Companies that receive awards in these R&D programs keep the rights to any technology developed and are encouraged to commercialize the technology.

Among the awardees were four small businesses -- Brains4Drones (Plano, TX), Elintrix (Escondido, CA), Oceanit Laboratories (Honolulu, HI), and RNET Technologies (Dayton, OH) -- that will develop solutions for “Rapid Damage Assessment and Information Sharing for Power Restoration.” Their work will promote power grid resilience by providing utilities with additional tools that can help them recover more quickly from power outages.

One of the many challenges that electric utilities face during and after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane or an earthquake is dealing with the lack of immediate access to their infrastructure to perform damage assessments. Deployment of repair crews, movement of heavy equipment, and other response and recovery decisions depends on these assessments. Floods, damaged roads, and other unsafe conditions that deny access or put workers at risk, however, can hinder this critical step. Delays and inaccuracies in damage assessment can negatively impact situational awareness, decision making, and ultimately, power restoration times.

Brains4Drones, Elintrix, Oceanit Laboratories, and RNET Technologies will develop solutions that can improve the timeliness and accuracy of damage assessments (e.g., 80% accuracy within 12 hours, 90% accuracy within 24 hours), including improved information sharing and enhanced situational awareness.  Some of the innovative options that these companies will be exploring are smart aerial technologies, advanced sensing, data mining, and satellite imaging. Funding provided by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) totaled nearly $600,000. A list of the awardees of all of the DOE-funded projects can be found HERE.  Additional information about the SBIR and STTR programs can be found HERE.

To learn more about OE’s efforts to ensure a resilient, reliable, and flexible electricity system, visit the OE website.