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FirstEnergy Using Helicopters and Infrared Technology for Vegetation Management Inspections

May 14, 2024
Technology helps identify trees or vegetation that could impact high-voltage power lines.

To keep power flowing safely and reliably, FirstEnergy Corp. is conducting proactive aerial inspections of nearly 7,000 miles of transmission lines in its service territory using helicopters equipped with infrared technology. This work helps ensure that high-voltage power lines and equipment remain clear of trees and vegetation.

The aerial vegetation management inspections are scheduled to take place from May to mid-September in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. The helicopters will fly approximately 300 to 400 feet above the transmission lines at speeds between 25 and 35 miles per hour.

The helicopters will be equipped with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) units, which FirstEnergy began using for vegetation management inspections in 2016. The units help prevent potential power outages by using a laser's infrared light to measure distances between transmission lines and vegetation, confirming that lines are clear or identifying potential issues that cannot be observed during regular visual inspections. If any clearance concerns are identified by the helicopter patrols, ground crews will follow up to further inspect or address.

The helicopter pilots will communicate with local airports when they are in their air space, and inspections in New Jersey will not take place prior to July 29 due to regulations around raptor nesting. Inclement weather could impact flight schedules and extend the timeline of the inspections.

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