Conducting utility line inspections is no easy task. It is a time consuming, expensive process that utilities have to undergo on a routine basis. Most transmission and distribution lines need to be inspected visually every couple of years with a more comprehensive level inspection required every 3-5 years depending on the state. Thankfully the introduction of drone technology has helped streamline power line inspections and made the process a whole lot more efficient, safe, and cost-effective.
The estimated size of the global utility drone market is projected to be approximately $539M by 2023 according to Markets & Markets Research. This is of no surprise to those familiar with the power of aerial data and drone technology in the utility sector especially given a 50% average cost savings by deploying UAS for transmission and distribution line inspections.
Drones are not only facilitating routine transmission and distribution line inspections but also allowing utilities to conduct right of way (ROW) inspections, vegetation management, pre-storm audits, and post-storm damage assessments.
There are many types of sensors that can be mounted to the UAV to collect various data sets for analysis. Many high-resolution visual sensors are equipped with Zoom lenses that allow remote operators to safely collect detailed images of hardware and other pole/line components from a safe distance and limiting electrical interference with the aircraft. Additionally, infrared sensors can be equipped to help identify hot spots and other issues not easily identifiable in visual imagery. Finally, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors can be deployed to collect very precise data on topography and vegetations giving utilities comprehensive 2D/3D models that can be used for Right of Way (ROW) analysis.
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