T&D World Magazine

Eye in the Sky for Powerline Safety

The South East Queensland electricity network will be inspected once again from the air over the next few months with the commencement of Energex's annual helicopter patrols.

The patrols will see around 15,000 km of South East Queensland's powerlines inspected during the 5-month aerial inspection program. Over the course of the inspection program, patrol choppers will cover roughly the distance equivalent to a trip from Brisbane to Singapore and back.

Chopper inspections will supplement extensive vehicle and foot patrols as part of a comprehensive maintenance and upgrading program for the company's regional and rural electricity network. Patrols are programmed after the traditional end of the summer season with a view to identifying any network damage caused by lightning, heavy rain and severe weather, which this year will include the impacts of bushfires in some areas.
The helicopter patrols also allow surveyors to safely and efficiently identify any wear and tear which could become potential risks to the electricity network. A birds-eye view of the electricity network allows Energex to detect deterioration on the topside of poles and cross arms and identify overgrown vegetation impacting on the network not easily visible from the ground.

The helicopter patrols reduce the amount of time to survey an area, being twice as fast as vehicle patrols on overhead powerlines that follow roads, and 20 times quicker on powerlines in rugged terrain or on private property.

Specialized helicopter pilots trained in surveying electricity networks will conduct the inspections using high-resolution digital cameras and GPS equipment.

The nature of the patrols means the helicopters will need to fly at relatively low altitudes and may also need to turn widely or cross properties to follow the powerlines. Every attempt will be made to minimize inconvenience to residents and livestock.

The flying schedule is dependent on weather conditions, so it can be difficult to provide specific information; however special consideration is given to residents with livestock or medical concerns.

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