Power Utilities especially those located in high fire areas are coming under more and more scrutiny to make sure their equipment is well maintained and able to withstand the extremes of nature in their service territories.
The Public Utility Commission (PUC) in California has mandated that all Power Utilities create an annual Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP) in which they detail how they are going to prevent wildfires within their service territories. Utility equipment needs to be inspected visually every 12-24 months and a more detailed inspection every 3-5 years depending on equipment type and age. As we all deal with ongoing climate change issues, we should expect these rules or versions of the same, to gradually percolate through most states.
The primary focus of these projects is the Tier 3 fire areas, where the volume of fuel can be very high and the moisture content of the same fuel can be very low.
Above ground utilities are exposed to all that weather has to throw at them 24-7-365 and the time and labor involved in undertaking quality detailed inspections (rural & suburban) is increasing as the cost of skilled labor rises.
Poles and towers are laid out across large areas of service territories, to actually get to a pole in the first place (especially rural) with a team of electrical workers can be a challenge, helicopters are too noisy, too expensive and cannot provide the image detail and framing to complete an inspection. A boom truck is too cumbersome to access most locations and too expensive to be a viable option for all poles. Ground photography misses the top of the pole and the top of the crossarm which are essential to any quality pole inspection.
Enter cutting edge technology and a Drone Inspection Service company.
The aim of a power grid distribution inspection project (above ground) is to capture an image set of the entire pole including equipment and context in sufficient detail that a TEW (trained electrical worker) can review and determine if further inspection or repairs are warranted.
One or Two man teams, using the latest commercial grade drones and drone cameras can capture a pole using a custom shot list in great detail with minimum customer disruption and at a considerable cost savings over current methods. The images can then be supplied to the customer for review by TEW (trained electrical worker) or if required the latest AI technology can be applied and the customer will only receive a notification if anomalies are detected in the images which need a review and decision from a human.
Another benefit to this approach is a more efficient use of skilled labor as linemen are freed up to concentrate on repairs of specific defects rather than inspecting countless poles, the majority of which are in great condition.
Forward thinking utilities across the country are embracing this new technology to inspect above ground T&D (Transmission & Distribution) assets in a clean, efficient and cost effective manner.
Case in point a 2019-20 project in San Diego for San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) where as part of their Wildfire Mitigation Plan they instigated the DIAR ( Drone investigation, assessment and repair program) where 2 man drone teams were tasked with collecting a custom image list of approx 25,000 distribution assets, primarily in the Tier 3 fire areas with the aim of mitigating as far as possible any potential for man made wildfires.
This program received high profile attention including press releases, press reports and website communications.
Click Here for the SDGE Webpage highlighting the Drone Project.
Click Here for (pdf) SDGE handout for customer distribution.
If you have a power grid inspection project large or small in planning or need us to complete a project for you, please contact us to discuss and we would be more than happy to assist.