French drone software startup Sterblue was recently selected as one of 117 start-ups that will be working with with the largest U.S. utility companies through IlluminationLAB, an energy solutions bootcamp hosted by American Electric Power and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Sterblue CEO Geoffrey Vancassel at the IlluminationLAB pitch.

Sterblue builds software to assist drones inspecting wind turbines and power lines, guiding drones along trajectories that wrap tightly around structures, finding anomalies from the collected images and outputting reports.

During the 10-week IlluminationLAB program, Sterblue will help to lead pilot projects to demonstrate uses for their software.

"The main results and key figures will be shared with other utility companies allowing a risk reduction for them and an acceleration of our deployment on the U.S. soil," Geoffrey Vancassel, CEO of Sterblue, told Commercial UAV News. "That's actually a really innovative and collaborative program in an industry which has a reputation to be slow and old. The energy industry is much more permeable to innovation today than it was a couple of years ago."

Sterblue aims to automate time-consuming, costly and dangerous inspections of power lines, utilizing drones instead of manual inspections completed by operators at ground-level. According to Sterblue, the U.S. lists about 2.5 million miles of transmission and distribution lines — "which covers more than ten times of the way to the moon."

The company has been proving itself over the past two years in a variety of pilot projects with energy leaders in 14 countries and is excited to collaborate with other energy start-ups to improve their product while exploring its viability in the U.S.

During a pilot project in Lithuania earlier this year, operators were able to inspect 255 utility poles a day — some of them in the deep forests — using Sterblue software.

While Sterblue is currently focused on inspections in the energy sector, Vancassel says it is looking to expand into agriculture, infrastructure and asset management utilization in the future.

For details on the IlluminationLAB and previous case studies, visit its website.