The technology is becoming the mainstay of the infrastructure inspections following a small successful trial in 2018 of the technology, which will employ the services of contractors Preformed Line Products. They will produce high-resolution video, photograph and infra-red information from 10 metres above the lines that is then assessed by highly trained and experienced analysts and engineers. Drones were first used in a trial by Aurora in 2018, and are flown in line of sight, on weekdays (and some weekends where weather is better) and during daylight hours.
The drone survey provides information on the physical state of the assets such as corrosion and damage including cross-arms cracking or conductor binder wire strands breaking. The information gathered from the drone survey will be used in conjunction with information gathered from traditional inspections to enable Aurora to better manage and plan work required on the network.
“Using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones can provide a safer, higher quality, and more economical service compared to conventional inspections, particularly in hard to access terrain. It is also less intrusive to the owners of the land being overflown and easier on livestock in the case of farmland when compared to the use of helicopters,” says Aurora’s General Manager Asset Management Glenn Coates.
Letters have been sent to residents who have a line or pole located on their property which is to be the subject of the drone inspections. The camera will remain pointed down at all times and residents can be assured the aim is not to look at buildings. 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.
Inspections began in January involving Roxburgh, Ettrick and Omakau. This month, inspections will take place in Lauder, Clyde, Queenstown, Arrowtown and Roaring Meg areas. In Dunedin, inspections will occur in the North East Valley, Peninsula, and Green Island areas. From March, inspections will take place in Arrowtown, Dalefield and Wanaka. The programme is subject to change with inclement weather.