Drone inspections a first on Aurora Energy network

13 Aug 2018

Drones will be used for the first time on Aurora Energy’s electricity network to carry out visual inspections of its overhead power lines and pole-top equipment.

The inspections are being conducted as part of the independent review that Aurora Energy has commissioned to gain a comprehensive assessment of the current status of the network that can be shared and understood by all of our stakeholders.

Aurora Energy General Manager Asset Management and Planning Glenn Coates said: “The independent reviewer, WSP, will use drones to visually inspect the condition of overhead power lines and pole-top equipment at a sample of sites in Dunedin and Wanaka. WSP will use the information to assess the physical condition of those assets and compare it against the recorded asset condition.

“The drone flights in Dunedin are planned to take place over a six week period starting Monday 13 August. WSP has selected 135 sites to inspect in Dunedin, including flying the length of the high voltage line from Halfway Bush to Port Chalmers.

“The work will involve a drone flying above and adjacent to the line at low levels at selected sites mostly located on public roads. All flying will be done with the drone in line of sight, on weekdays and during daylight hours. Once the Dunedin inspections are complete, the operators will begin inspections in the Wanaka area.

“Aurora Energy understands there are privacy concerns around the use of drones and can assure the community that the drone operators will follow all the rules set down by the relevant regulatory organisations. The drone operators are qualified and work to Civil Aviation Authority requirements and will adhere to all local Council requirements. Any asset images gathered by the drones are stored securely and used for network management purposes only.

“The inspections provide a valuable opportunity for Aurora Energy to assess the use of the new technology first hand and evaluate their future application on our network for regular inspection and maintenance. We’ll also be sharing our experience of drone inspections with the wider industry, given the relative newness of the technology, how it works in practice and what we learnt.

“We are currently assessing the feasibility of available technologies to assess the conditions of overhead spans and the tops of poles including infrared and corona cameras either pole-mounted or attached to a drone or helicopter.

“Using drones has some potential advantages over existing techniques, particularly where we need to access equipment in difficult or remote terrain. Much quieter than a helicopter, drones cause less disruption and noise for those living and working nearby and can be operated from the ground, at a safe distance from live lines.

“We’re keen to understand the safety, operational and environmental benefits of using drones and the potential for efficiencies in how we inspect the local distribution network,” said Glenn Coates.