Media Release: High tech aerial inspections underway

Wednesday 20 May, 2020

Powercor is using aircraft fitted with advanced laser detection technology to inspect powerlines across western Victoria as part the electricity distributor’s extensive year-round bushfire mitigation program.

Using advanced Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology, Powercor is able to scan and detect vegetation growing near powerlines in both high-risk and low-risk bushfire areas.

The LIDAR devices are fitted to fixed-wing aircraft flying above powerlines and take detailed measurements of the distances between vegetation and poles or wires.

This data is then used to inform Powercor’s comprehensive vegetation management program to ensure specialist contracts and arborists only clear what has to be done to meet industry regulations.

Powercor’s Head of Vegetation Management Hugh Vickers-Willis said the year-round program was a key part of Powercor’s work to keep communities safer.

“Keeping vegetation away from powerlines reduces the risk of fires starting from powerlines and unplanned power outages,” Mr Vickers-Willis said.

“Our laser detection technology accurately measures the distance between our network and vegetation and this helps us determine what trees and foliage needs to be cut.”

“Doing these inspections now allows us to get our network ready for next summer given some of the state’s highest bushfire risk areas are in the Powercor network.”

Inspections are taking place across central and western Victoria and will move up to northern Victoria in the coming weeks.

Powercor inspects more than 85,000 kilometres of powerlines each year, using both aerial and ground-based inspection methods and in 2019, cleared vegetation from more than 75,000 powerline spans (the distance between two power poles).

Vegetation management is part of Powercor’s broader bushfire mitigation program, which also includes an extensive asset inspection and maintenance program, as well as the installation of new safety technology on the network.

Bushfire mitigation is a key focus of Powercor’s proposed as part of the Regulatory Proposal submitted to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for 2021-2026.

The proposal includes increasing our investment in vegetation and maintenance activities by $22 million after the food belt in western Victoria was reclassified as hazardous bushfire risk areas (HBRA).