NYSEG has been using drones to inspect power transmission lines in Western New York since October.
The electric and gas utility’s parent company, Iberdrola USA, said drones are a safer and more efficient alternative to helicopters, which it has used to conduct the same work in the past.
Drones afford the company the same aerial perspective as helicopters when assessing transmission line rights of way and assessing storm damage.
“What brought this option to the forefront was the need to inspect static wires that are installed over substations to dissipate lightning strikes,” said Mark S. Lynch, NYSEG president and CEO, in a statement. “Helicopters aren’t really practical for this task, and the view from eyes on the ground is less than optimal. It seemed that drones might be just the tool that we needed.”
NYSEG is using drones to inspect 36 substations in Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Niagara counties. It expects to be finished within the next few weeks.
Results have been “encouraging” so far, Lynch said, letting the company work quickly to identify issues that could cause power interruptions.
The drones fly no higher than 300 feet and are operated by licensed commercial pilots from Maine company Coutts Brothers. Coutts has a Federal Aviation Administration exemption to fly the drones and gives notice when the flights will take place.