Typical Mission Plan for Power Line Inspections?


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What's a typical mission plan for power line inspections?  I've read distance recommendations from 20ft to 100ft.  It seems to me at 20ft, unless you are using course lock or similar, you could have issues keeping the line in the frame depending on how fast you are flying.  Are most companies looking for thermal videography of the entire transmission line for a distance to identify obvious problem points and then more close visual inspection of insulators near the towers using a zoom camera?  I really can't see how visual RGB images would be that useful as an insulator in the early stages of failure could look fairly normal from afar.  Breaks or issues in the actual line would also not be very visible unless you could get very close-up images.  Running a closeup inspection of a line for several miles would just be extremely cumbersome.


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Depending on the utility and the voltage, above a certain voltage its considered "critical Infrastructure" and fall under federal guidelines, they often require a QEW (Qualified Electrical Worker) to supervise your work.  They have a chart for the minimum distances required and their there to make sure you comply.

There is no common voltage or typical mission.  We work with 34KV to 500KV.  Its all different, it depends on the utility, the manufacturer of the equipment used in the circuit and what their SOP is.

You'll need to be at least NERC and ISN certified, again that depends on the utility your working for.  If what your inspecting is on federal property or considered critical infrastructure you wont be allowed to use Chinese manufactured drones.  

Also, we use 48 to 150MP camera's which provides us a significant standoff so that we can operate safely while getting the required quality of data.

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Oh I see. You use a high enough resolution sensor so that you can make one pass, capturing multiple lines and then zoom in when inspecting the image to get the detail you need on the lines, insulators, and other components. 

Do you still use a camera with optical zoom during flight to get extreme detail on certain areas, or is the sensor resolution high enough that you can forego the necessity to use optical zoom during flight?    

Do you typically run an IR and RGB camera at the same time or is IR not required in many situations?  It would seem to me like the IR information would be more valuable for detecting issues?


Edited by Jazee
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Again it depends on the problem the utility your working with is trying to solve.  

We do surveys to produce engineering grade Digital Twins/Reality Models that can be used for a lot of different applications.  They can be used for inspections but generally that’s not the purpose for doing it.  For a 20 acre substation we shoot 3-4000 images yielding about 2TB’s of data which produces a model of about 16GB’s.  That’s what it takes to get mm level accuracy.  

Thermal could be useful but not a Toa640 type sensor.  Any Flir that people fly with a DJI is 620x512, too low resolution to be effective.  If you used SWIR you might be able to create some kind of useful application but it’s going to weigh about seven or more pounds and cost north of $60K.  

Utilities do some really serious engineering 

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