Essential Energy drones take power network inspection to new levels

Essential Energy drones take power network inspection to new levels

Emily Wood | July 18, 2018

Essential Energy is utilising innovative drone technology to inspect power poles, zone substations and other critical electrical assets across its network.

Drones provide an efficient, cost-effective alternative to the regular ground-based and aerial inspections Essential Energy undertakes as part of its extensive maintenance program.

The drones – or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – capture vital data on the condition of network assets. Their bird’s-eye view reduces the need for Essential Energy’s inspectors to use elevated work platforms, or climbing techniques to access poles or towers in areas that are inaccessible by vehicle.

For example, communications technicians need to climb some communications towers that are well over 40 metres high, with associated inherent risks. A drone was recently used to inspect a 90 metre tower in Moree, mitigating those risks for Essential Energy employees.

The drones also provide a snapshot of the internal condition of power poles and equipment using thermal imaging.

Not only can the condition of network assets be assessed in a safer manner, but drone technology dramatically reduces the time needed to complete inspections, delivering a safe and reliable network more efficiently. This ultimately benefits all Essential Energy customers by contributing to lower network charges.

A ground-based patrol of nine powerline towers located in mountainous terrain near Burrinjuck in the NSW Riverina generally takes an asset inspector around 10 hours to complete. A drone can complete the same task within two hours.

Registered as an operator with CASA, Essential Energy has a fleet of 45 drones – each weighing less than two kilograms – currently in operation across its electricity distribution area. Trials are being undertaken with a range of larger and smaller drones to expand the range of technology applications.

Approximately 80 employees have been trained as drone operators to date.

To find out more, visit the Essential Energy Website.

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