Media Release: Helicopter inspection trial taking place in Winchelsea and Horsham

20 March 2019

A new way of inspecting the safety of powerlines is being trialled in Winchelsea and Horsham this month, with electricity distributor Powercor investigating the use of detailed photography, innovative data algorithms and a low-flying helicopter.

During March, a specialist inspection team is flying above 288 kilometres of powerlines in Winchelsea and 1088 kilometres in Horsham, taking aerial photos of more than 6,000 poles.

Powercor Head of Digital, Luke Skinner said the trial would provide important insights into how aerial inspections could be used to reduce the cost to customers of keeping the network safe.

“Our focus is on delivering safe and reliable power to customers and we are always investigating different ways we can inspect and maintain our network for the benefit of the community,” Mr Skinner said.

The Powercor network covers more than 145,700 square kilometres in Victoria’s western region.

“Traditionally, our ground crews inspect the powerlines but this is time-intensive, particularly when compared to the speed and distances a helicopter can travel,” Mr Skinner said.

“By using a helicopter, our team is able to fly quickly along large stretches of poles and wires. We can capture high-resolution imagery from helicopters and continue to train our computer vision algorithms to find irregularities while we progress with aerial photo research and development.”

Photos from the helicopter will be taken from 5 angles of 6,375 individual poles. Ground crews are also inspecting the same poles during the same period, with results from both inspections to be analysed and compared.

Aerial surveying organisation Hawcs has been contracted by Powercor to provide this service. Flying at 400ft, their ‘notar’ helicopter has no tail rotor which greatly reduces noise while taking photos.

This is Powercor’s third phase of the trial, which will continue over the next year.