Eastbourne UK Power Networks engineers trained to operate drones to restore power
and live on Freeview channel 276
UK Power Networks is exploring innovative ways in which drone technology can help improve fault response along its rural networks.
The firm is testing whether using high quality video images from drones can pinpoint damage and help restore power supplies up to 30-minutes faster.
Eight engineers at UK Power Networks have been trained as pilots with Heliguy to safely fly drones above high voltage overhead electricity lines, helping spot any potential defects or damage on the line and move repair crews and equipment into position faster.
The technology is being tested in Eastbourne, Tunbridge Wells and Colchester.
Pilots will fly the devices along the line ofsight, logging all flights and abiding by Civil Aviation Authority regulations.
Phil Burke, leading the trial at UK Power Networks, said: “The reason we want to try drones is to find the causes of power cuts faster, work even safer and make power cuts shorter.
“A typical high voltage fault impacts 100 properties, after our initial process to quickly return power to as many as possible.
"We estimate that flying drones will cut our restoration times by 30 minutes on average.
“Traditionally we send a team to walk the length of the overhead line to find out where the fault is. Our teams face hedgerows, wire fences, ditches, woodland, fallen branches and uneven ground.
“Sometimes we’ll reach an obstacle like a fence and need to walk further away from the line to return to the same spot and continue the line patrol.
“Depending on the ground conditions, walking one kilometre of line can take anything from ten minutes to an hour. Drones can fly a section of overhead power lines much quicker and safer than our linespeople could walk the line or climb a wooden pole to inspect equipment, reducing the risk of slips, trips and falls in rural areas.”
Foot patrols will still be required in situations such as windy weather and darkness, and the company’s regular helicopter patrols will continue to cover longer distances more quickly.