Drones have become a must-have tool in many industries in recent years. Their flight capabilities, thermal imaging, and bird’s eye views provide data in hard to reach places. They can see things that human technicians cannot and can provide information in a shorter space of time.
The appeal of these drones in power line and transmission tower inspections is clear. They can save time, save money and potentially save lives.
The idea took shape in 2015 with plans for test flights. Modern advancements mean that the appeal is even stronger.
Drones As A Time Saver In The Industry
These drones fly up to power lines and towers under the control of a trained operator. Their imaging capabilities allow them to take pictures of the area, seek out damage and faults and look at heat signatures.
This Lidar and quick flight time mean that it doesn’t take long at all to get the data and use it. Images from the drone go up to the cloud where project managers miles from the site can see real-time data.
The duration of a Project that could take months with a team of people is significantly shortened. This was the case with Illinois company Commonwealth Edison in 2015.
Previously, they had to send inspectors to walk the length of the broken lines to find the problem. Then the data seen is then forwarded to the company, who would call in the repair men.
Towards the end of 2015, the FAA ruled that they could use drones instead. The drones fly along the lines, using thermal imaging for hot-spots, and the process is much faster.
Drones As A Way Of Saving Money
UAVs are not cheap, and some of the more capable systems for utilities can cost thousands. This is a significant investment, but it is one that is sure to pay off.
This one-time cost doesn’t seem too bad when compared to the annual cost of hiring inspection teams and surveyors each year.
Rather than hire a team, with a costly combined number of staff-hours and skill sets, companies can use their drone technician.
Drones As A Way Of Protecting Workers And Maybe Saving Lives
Line and transmission tower inspection is dangerous work. Not only are technicians working with electricity at high voltage, but they also need to climb these towers in some difficult areas.
The idea of sending up a drone is ideal as there is no risk to human life. The drone can go up alone and send the information to those safely on the ground.
The only problem for these utility companies is that there are many FAA regulations in place.
The FAA issued strong guidelines on the operation of drones and certification for operators. Drone technicians need a license to fly these commercial drones.
They also cannot take them out of their eye line or above 200ft. This could be a problem in some areas with hard-to-reach towers and lines. Even so, the potential of drones for line inspection is substantial in the right hands.
With a licensed operator and the right tech, utility companies can reduce time and manpower with their inspections. Not only is this sure to save money in the long run, but it could also prevent many accidents.