New England Utility Flying High Over Drone Test

Used with permission under CC0 Public Domain via

Used with permission under CC0 Public Domain via

New England’s largest power provider may soon join the growing number of power utilities using drones to keep watch over their power lines.

Earlier this month, Eversource took part in a UAV demonstration along with New Hampshire-based drone operator Franz Loew of JBI Helicopter Services.

Onlookers watched as Loew launched a $2,000 DJI s1000 over several miles of Eversource power lines and sent several minutes of imagery to the utility’s engineering staff.

“With the UAV, we can actually get up close and find any infrastructure that might be a lot smaller,” transmission operations manager Carol Burke told Valley News. “An insulator that’s broken, hardware that’s rusting, smaller items that would need to be replaced.”

Eversource serves 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire which means tens of thousands of line miles, often over mountainous, rough terrain.

JBI already provides helicopter line inspection for Eversource but Loew says drones add a new dimension to his services.

“We are able to get into environments like a helicopter may not be able to get into,” Loew told TV station WMUR, following the 15-minute flight. He believes current aerial solutions haven’t “even scratched the surface for the kinds of things we can use these UAVs for. It’s an exciting time for everybody.”

Eversource joins a growing number of utilities worldwide that are testing or buying drones to inspect power lines and substations. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced plans in May to test inspection drones to “monitor electric infrastructure in hard-to-reach areas and … detect methane leaks across its 70,000-square-mile service area.”

“PG&E is working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the University of California, Merced’s Mechatronics Embedded Systems and Automation Lab (MESA Lab), and Pipeline Research Council International to conduct testing of NASA’s Open Path Laser Spectrometer sensor on a drone,” writes DroneLife contributor James Richardson.

This past week, Sterlite Power — one of India’s largest utilities – announced a partnership with American company Sharper Shape to deploy the company’s automated, drone-based inspection packages for power-line inspection.

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