31 July 2021
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (DEWA) Research & Development Centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park supports innovation in all production and operational areas, becoming a global platform to enhance the operations and services of DEWA’s divisions.
The Centre includes DEWA’s Robotics & Drone laboratory, which is the first building in the UAE to be fully printed onsite, and the first such 3D-printed lab in the world. The lab houses rovers and drones that are designed and built in-house.
Investing in 3D solutions
Through its R&D Centre, DEWA has developed advanced infrastructure and specialised software in 3D printing and additive manufacturing. DEWA is the first organisation in the GCC to deploy Markforged Metalx 3D printing based on wire/filament. This technology is highly accurate; reduces time and cost, improves efficiency and productivity and enhances innovation at DEWA.
DEWA uses 3D printers to produce prototypes and spare parts for its generation, transmission, and distribution divisions, and to support the digitisation of its inventory. The R&D Centre supports rapid changes through its 3D printer advanced features. It also provides technical solutions, training, knowledge sharing, mechanical testing, techno-economic analysis, and research and development in additive manufacturing.
Innovative, world-class, sustainable platform
“The R&D Centre supports DEWA’s efforts in innovation which is a key pillar of its work. 3D printing projects launched by DEWA are widely recognised by utilities worldwide. DEWA works to enhance its production and operational capacity by investing in these technologies. This is through its 3D printing programme which has been selected as one of the Dubai 10X initiative projects. The initiative was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which mandates the Government of Dubai to be a global leader that is 10 years ahead of all other cities. The programme also supports the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy, which is a unique global initiative to use technology for the service of humanity and promote the status of the UAE and Dubai as a global hub for 3D printing technology, by 2030,” said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA.
Waleed Salman, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Excellence at DEWA, referred to the importance of the R&D Centre in providing self-sufficiency for DEWA in terms of developing innovative solutions and technologies. The centre adopts the latest Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, including the 3D printers, such as reinforced plastic printers using a mixture of carbon fibre or fibreglass; CYBE printers; and Markforged Metalx metal printers. The Centre strengthens capabilities in 3D printing, through workshops and training sessions. Besides, it develops the experiences of its engineers and researchers and consolidates their knowledge of additive manufacturing, which supports national capabilities. The number of Emirati researchers at the Centre has reached 70%.
Dr Hisham Ismail, Head of 4IR at the R&D Centre, said that they are first in the world to use robots, developed in-house to test the PV panels. This has improved the operational performance of PV panels at the Solar Park as well as reduced costs. The 4IR department supports the Centre’s four major operational areas which include electricity generation from solar and clean energy, integration of smart grids, energy efficiency, and water.
Dr. Ismail trains new employees on preparing research papers to be published internally. This is part of Abhathi programme to conduct 4 types of research annually on any area of 4IR. He also trains students from different universities through the Al Baheth programme. The centre has funded 17 projects, as part of DEWA’s commitment to encourage scientific research in the UAE to build a competitive knowledge-based economy.
Its research projects on 3D printing have resulted in several papers being published. These include “Materials for 3D printing in construction” at the 2nd Annual Conference on 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing. It also published several papers at different editions of The International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (IMECE). These include ‘Autonomous PV panel detection using a drone;’ ‘Enhanced PV Panel Detection Using Drone Equipped with RTK;’ ‘Autonomous PV panel inspection with Geotagging capabilities using drones;’ ‘Comparison of UGV position estimation with GNSS-RTK and GPS using EKF.’
In the latest round of the IMECE, the Centre published two research papers entitled ‘UGV Localisation with AI-Assisted EKF for Multi-terrain Environments;’ and ‘Navigation Method For UGV On Aerial Elevation Maps For Autonomous Missions In Sandy Deserts.’ At the IEEE, researchers at the R&D Centre published a paper entitled ‘Stitching Approach for PV Panel Detection.’
Several projects by the R&D Centre have patents including A universal smart charging system that consists of a single cable and a plug, whether cars use AC or DC charging. The charging station’s design is also user-friendly and a one-stop point for all types of electric vehicles, as it automatically adapts the plug and the charging to the vehicle’s requirement.
The R&D Centre registered a second patent for Albedo Measurement (that measures the diffused reflection of solar radiation out of the total solar radiation received on surfaces) using an in-house developed autonomous rover. Five prototypes of this system have been developed which will be a future service for DEWA, local and international organisations.
Projects by the R&D Centre in 2021 include several projects such as “Developing an Autonomous Overhead Line Inspection system using drones,” and “Developing a Robotic Overhead Line Monitoring and Maintenance system.”
The R&D Centre held an awareness workshop on 3D printing during which it reviewed examples for producing spare parts using 3D printers. This contributes to innovating solutions that enhance productivity, save time, efforts and cost.
The R&D Centre won the Overall Innovative Idea award at the Ideas America 2020 for a project on autonomous detection and inspection of solar PV panels using drones and AI. The project also won the Breakthrough Innovation Award at Ideas America 2020.