It’s a bird, it’s a plane…wait, is that a drone?
American Transmission Co. crews are trying out some high-flying technology this week as an option for transmission line inspections – drones. That’s right we’re using an unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, to inspect approximately 40 structures on two 69,000-volt transmission lines in Marinette, Oconto and Brown counties.
ATC contracted with a commercial drone company experienced with transmission inspections to conduct comprehensive transmission line inspections, including inspecting all wires, structures, insulators and hardware for damage, and looking for right-of-way obstructions.
“We’re evaluating this new technology as an alternative to some inspections currently being performed from helicopters or by ground crews,” said Duane Schoon, ATC manager of asset maintenance and commissioning. “Drones can be especially useful when inspecting transmission lines in difficult-to-reach areas, such as near buildings, roads or recreational trails.”
Inspection of the transmission system is important to help ensure public safety and electric system reliability, and utilities across the nation are beginning to use drones for inspections. ATC performs routine inspections of our more than 9,530 miles of transmission lines and 530 substations. If the pilot program is successful, ATC will evaluate using drone technology in other parts of our service area.
The aircraft being used is approximately 25 pounds, 2.5 feet in diameter, has eight rotors and is equipped with a high-resolution camera. It is about as loud as a vacuum cleaner and sounds like a swarm of bees.
Check out the video below of the drone crew inspecting one of our transmission line structures.