The largest drone trial conducted by Powercor will begin next week across western Victoria as the electricity distributor investigates how the technology may be used in the future to maintain a safe and reliable network for homes and business.
Over a six week period, a range of different types of drones will inspect 10,000 poles in areas around Bendigo, Clunes, Woodend, Winchelsea, Colac and Wemen. Inspections will also occur throughout the Wimmera, parts of the Surf Coast, areas south of Ballarat and parts of the Otways.
The drones will capture high resolution images and thermographic information, helping to locate ‘hot spots’ on the network which may lead to faults in the future.
The latest trial is a significant expansion of previous, trials which have tested the capability of using drones to inspect pole tops and powerlines, including in areas that are in remote terrain that are often difficult to access.
Powercor’s Head of Digital, Luke Skinner, said the benefit of drone inspections was they could cover a large area quickly and capture in greater detail information about power assets.
“This trial is about finding new ways to keep our network operating safely and reliably,” Mr Skinner said.
“We will be operating these drone inspections alongside our traditional inspection program to allow us to analyse results and accuracy.
“Our highly-experienced asset inspectors will examine data captured by the drones and if they detect defects they will direct these to our maintenance teams to address.”
Flights are scheduled to take place throughout September and October during daylight hours, weather permitting.
Previous trials in places such as the Otways, areas south of Ballarat and around Charlton, Wedderburn and Bridgewater have inspected between 50 and 200 poles each.
“These ongoing trials are building our knowledge and understanding about how this new technology may be incorporated into our annual program of work inspecting poles, powerlines and other infrastructure,” Mr Skinner said.
The work is in addition to Powercor’s ongoing continuous program of asset inspections, which are also being conducted by crews in vehicles, on foot and by helicopter.
Powercor manages its network of almost 90,000km of powerline and 588,000 poles through a rigorous inspection and maintenance program, on top of a network-wide vegetation management program clearing trees and shrubs well away from powerlines.
For more information on Powercor’s inspection programs, visit www.powercor.com.au.