New drones that inspect and replace power lines
Last week, utility company PG&E publicly unveiled some of its drone capabilities with pilots, industry professionals, contractors and media discussing their features and new technologies that make the company’s job easier.
However, the star of the event was the Infravision TX UAV stringing system. This large drone, located in its own transport truck in the parking lot, is responsible for transporting cables between electrical poles in areas where said cables are down . This issue has hit PG&E especially hard over the past decade, as extreme weather conditions driven by climate change bring down more power lines, causing more outages.
Instead of workers hauling lines in dangerous terrain and bad weather or requiring areas and weather clear enough for helicopters to provide assistance, the TX UAV is tasked with pulling lines that can weigh a couple hundred pounds from a pole. to another. It was implemented in 2022 and has been used 20 times to date, a number the utility expects to increase as it expands the program.
” The technology amazes me ,” said Joshua Hill, unmanned aerial systems operations manager. ” You know, every day we read about new technologies and we try to get those technologies and see what is best .”
” We use this system for places that are difficult to access on foot, by boat or by helicopter ,” Hill said. “If we can’t use those other options, this is a great option for us to replace our power lines or repair our power lines in those areas. That way we can reduce downtime for our customers and get them on faster, and ultimately that translates into cost savings and faster startup.“.
According to PG&E, it is the first utility company in North America to employ this technology provided by Australian company Infravision . Hill highlighted its usefulness during this past winter, which is considered one of the most turbulent in California history.
For his part, PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty reported that 18 of the 20 times the TX UAV has been used so far was to address storm damage. PG&E also introduced smaller drones that it regularly uses to inspect equipment, a program started in 2015 and expanded significantly in 2020.
Unlike the TX UAV, which requires an operator with line of sight about a mile away, most smaller drones are operated from a centralized control center in Concord.
Likewise, Eli Thomas, pilot in charge of operating inspection drones for PG&E contractor Cyberhawk, mentioned that drones allow pilots to identify problems that are physically inaccessible to line inspectors and helicopter pilots.
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Source and photo: pleasantonweekly.com