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Open call

DigiFed EDF HYDRO challenge: How can drones guarantee visual inspection in complex environments

Open date: Thursday 24 June 2021   Close date: Tuesday 28 September 2021 Apply now

With funding 100k€ for the successful startup, EDF HYDRO is looking for a solution to tackle the challenge of short term hydroelectric group dismantling. EDF HYDRO seeks to improve its turbine inspection procedures, reducing time and costs whilst enhancing inspection quality and predictive maintenance.


EDF HYDRO, part of the EDF Group, is the largest producer of hydropower in the EU and wants to be a key player in the energy programmes of France and the core European countries where it operates.

Industry Sector: Hydroelectricity production

Funding: Euro 100,000

EDF HYDRO, part of the EDF Group, is the largest producer of hydropower in the EU and partners with DigiFed to address one of its key challenges on hydraulic inspection going beyond the state of the art and providing innovative solving market solutions.

For the DigiFed challenge:

At EDF Hydro Alpes, 16 of our electricity groups are facing this challenge. For example, it can take up to 8 years to estimate the status of each group.

The pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) turbines can have between one and five Francis turbines on top of each other. Currently, the inspection of the Francis turbine for hydroelectricity production pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) is made by video endoscopy, which does not allow to inspect in-between Francis turbines. In addition, it involves dismantling the production group, resulting in operational inactivity. This task lasts for up to a year, which constitutes a huge loss in terms of the generation of electricity.

The endoscopy allows for inspection of the first and the last turbine only. It is impossible to check the turbines in between. Moreover, these wheels must also be examined to have an idea of their potential degradation and to plan efficient maintenance with minimised down-times.

EDF HYDRO is looking for a solution to establish the health status of the turbine to better optimise maintenance.

In the short term, the solution should allow inspection of some parts of the turbine that EDF HYDRO have never seen before.

In the long term, the solution could help EDF HYDRO create well-structured plans for maintenance on their groups to reduce financial costs and to have the optimal efficiency in the electricity generation.


“This challenge is critical for our business operations because electricity generation is key for modern society. In the winter season, Europe just about satisfies its needs in terms of electricity generation. All the countries are relying on an interconnected electricity grid to respond to the demand. Therefore, if one or more electricity groups breakdown due to the exhaustive diagnostic testing, there are considerable negative consequences.”

EDF HYDRO understands the benefits of open innovation activities such as DigiFed Digital Challenge and is looking forward to building partnerships with innovative European companies.

Who should apply?

EDF HYDRO is looking to partner with innovative, mature, and qualified EU companies in wireless real time image transmission and RF propagation in challenging metal rich industrial environments (for example, chemical plants or oil and gas). The development of such a solution requires skills and expertise in robotics, miniaturisation, and conception.

The DigFed challenges seek startups who are:

  • Developing innovative smart solutions worthy of market leaders
  • Bridging the physical and virtual worlds with advanced technologies and industrialised solutions
  • Interested in using premium resources and competencies to speed up solutions development
  • Wishing to access a unique European ecosystem composed of leading industrial companies, world-class research organisations, innovation accelerators and private investors

Why get involved:

  • The opportunity to respond to a real-world industry challenge adding a relevant use case to your unique value proposition.
  • Up to €100k in funding – representing 70% of your project’s declared budget.
  • Added value to your product, through high-level technical expertise, innovation support and access to pilot sites to deploy your solution
  • The opportunity to bid to implement the full solution for the Digital Challenge Owner
  • Innovation management support focusing on sustainable business development – to help your innovation get to the market via DigiFed and the Smart Anything Everywhere ecosystem.
  • Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) services to identify technical partners, commercial opportunities in Europe and receive tailored support, webinars and boot camps through the DigiFed project.
  • Opportunity to start a commercial partnership (manufacturing of the solutions) with EF HYDRO
  • Opportunity to participate to solve additional challenges for EDF HYDRO

Next steps

To find out more about this open call here or email the team at [email protected]

Key dates:

  • Open call pre-selection Deadline: 30 July
  • Open call application deadline: 28 September