Electrical utilities in many parts of the United States still struggle with tight costs since the economic downturn in 2008. An example is Hutchinson Utilities Commission of Hutchinson, Minnesota. Overall demand for electricity is dropping and the costs to buy power from Missouri River Energy. They are still cash flow positive due to accounting from deprecation, which can only be done for so long.
It is not directly mentioned but it probably also means a very tight maintenance budget. Traditional LiDAR capture and processing can get expensive and may not be in their budget. This is a opportunity for test flights after September 2015 for UAV surveying of electrical infrastructure. The costs are less to launch a UAV versus a airplane or helicopter. One option is Hexagon Geospatial’s AutoDTM, as you need very high quality, low altitude imagery. This would be a experimental approach with test flights to test the viability of this technique as any power or telephone line can vary quite a bit between ortho photographs and flightlines. The other one is the new UAV LiDAR sensor, the Velodyne VLP-16, due for release at the end of 2014. This would follow the more traditional approach of low altitude flying and scanning that helicopters or airplanes currently do. You can use your choice of traditional LiDAR software like Hexagon Geospatial’s IMAGINE suite or LAStools or other processing software. AutoDTM would be difficult to use in these corridor studies as you need extremely high resolution orotho photos that would allow for clear delineation and extraction without any variance between photos which lower resolution/higher altitude orthos do not allow.
This would be beyond HUC, as many other smaller city, county, and regional electrical utilities would be looking for ways to maintain infrastructure at lower rates.