UAVs and Power Line Studies

The Devils Lake Journal of Devils Lake, North Dakota had a good story right before Christmas about frost on power lines and bringing them down causing safety hazards.  This appears like a good place for future UAV evaluation and damage planning of power line corridors.

In recent posts I have mentioned a form of crowd-sourcing co-op of UAVs in the future to evaluate crops.  It is very common to have LiDAR scans of power line corridors, often done by helicopters, sometimes by fixed wing aircraft.  Commercial UAVs outfitted with LiDAR sensors for their size at the farm could be  put into agreements to study events like this, first in the research phase, then production.

In this example of heavy frost, you would work with National Weather Service and/or commercial private weather forecasting companies to predict the ideal conditions, the pre-deployed UAVs would go up before, during, and after the event (in this case late evening, middle of night, morning,) or as many times as determined for proper study evaluation.  The control would be power line studies done by UAVs in good weather evaluated against traditional LiDAR scans from helicopters or fixed wing aircraft.

The relevant data would be the frost growth to different levels known to cause problems with the power lines, increasing the sag, damage to lines, and increasing the public danger and company liabilities.  The better this phenomenon is known the more actions can be done when forecast weather conditions are on the horizon and lines designs can be improved.

Studies like this would need additional approval from the FAA for flights at night and out of Line of Sight, which are possible with current technology but the legal approvals would have to be made.  It may be 2016 or 2017 before this could even be attempted.


About Chuck Schoeneberger

Former forecaster at Meridian Environmental Technologies Inc (now a Interis Company), with a background in GIS and LiDAR, with other stints at GeoSpatial Services of Winona, MN and Aerometric (Now Quantum Spatial) of Sheboygan, WI. He is a weather technologist for public storm safety from a local to international level. LinkedIn Profile: His views are his own and not of his employer.
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