Drones fly beyond BVLOS inspecting SA powerlines


Thursday, 04 April, 2024

Drones fly beyond BVLOS inspecting SA powerlines

Drone manufacturer Carbonix has marked a milestone by flying its drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), thanks to a recent mission for SA Power Networks to inspect 150 km of powerlines in remote South Australia.

Carbonix and SA Power Networks have been working together to radically advance the use of long-range uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) in aerial inspection work on remote electricity distribution network assets for the past 18 months. Such inspections are currently done by conventional crewed aircraft (helicopters and light planes) or ground crews, but the operational and environmental benefits of replacing these with Carbonix drones would see an up to 80% reduction in operating cost and up to 98% reduction in CO2 output while improving safety and efficiency.

With drones more easily deployed than conventional aircraft, as well as accelerating asset inspection cycles, their adoption would improve response times to outages, fault finding, bushfire preparedness, maintenance work, and planning and documentation of line re-stringing. This should support the reliability of electricity supply, particularly for the 30% of SA Power Networks customers living in regional and remote areas of the state.

“We rely on aerial inspections to be able to meet inspection cycles,” said Paul Roberts, Head of Corporate Affairs for SA Power Networks. “Our crews also drive about 20 million kilometres annually patrolling and maintaining our vast network. Being able to deploy over-the-horizon drone patrols will drive greater efficiency in our asset management program and provide genuine safety benefits for our people and community.”

The mission for SA Power Networks, which was approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), is believed to make Carbonix’s Volanti the first Australian fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone to execute a fully automated BVLOS flight gathering commercially useful data for a customer. The milestone paves the way for Carbonix’s drones to efficiently and safely inspect South Australia’s vast electricity distribution network of more than 180,000 km2.

“This is such an exciting time for the drone industry and for the energy industry,” said Carbonix CEO Philip van der Burg. “We’ve addressed the risks and barriers, both regulatory and technical, and proven the capability. Long-range drone adoption means improved safety, faster response times and reduced carbon footprint for companies like SA Power Networks. We’re thrilled to have partnered with them to achieve this Australian first.”

Images courtesy Carbonix.

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