At the turn of the twentieth century, the use of drones was limited to the military, mainly in areas too dangerous for human navigation. Fast forward to the early years of this decade, and these flying devices have been used more and more for commercial civilian use, from making long distance deliveries to recreational flying over the yard. Now, they will be used to improve electrical service for residents of New Hampshire.
After having been using them for trial inspections since 2016, New England electrical company Eversource will be launching their drone inspection project to more efficiently inspect power lines throughout New Hampshire.
Eversource conducted its first trial drone inspection in New Hampshire in 2016 in Nashua. Prior to that, the company had done similar inspections in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the other states they service.
The aerial devices will provide Eversource with a close look at high-voltage energy infrastructure spanning remote, hard-to-reach areas, providing higher quality images that will allow Eversource agents to see aging and damage that might not have been caught as well in the past.
“Drone technology offers a safe, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to perform required inspections of electrical lines, structures, and equipment,” said Eversource NH Vice President of Electric Operations, Joe Purington. “This high-tech solution provides a critical, bird’s-eye view, enabling use to identify any potential issues in an effort to ensure our customers have the energy they need for every moment of their lives.”
By using these drones, the energy company will be able to minimize the need for periodic inspections by low-flying helicopters, reducing the use of fossil fuels and lowering the costs associated with annual inspections, which are paid for by Eversource customers. Drone inspections will also minimize the need for vehicle access to inspect equipment in environmentally sensitive areas.
“When you combine the cost of the helicopters doing a comprehensive inspection, along with foot patrols, the drone inspection is more economical.” Said Carol Burke, manager of transmission line operations in Eversource New Hampshire.
The drones will be manned by certified operators and the use of the devices will be limited to inspections of Eversource equipment and will not compromise the privacy of nearby property owners.
The operators manning the drones will be from Mesa Associates Inc, a full service engineering, procurement, and construction management firm. According to Burke, the work for Eversource will only be done by licensed pilots and will solely focus on the infrastructure in question.
Burke commented on the professionalism of these pilots, stating that they are willing to speak with customers about concerns and are happy to show them what they are working on.
Allen Tweed, Pilot for Mesa Associates, assured Eversource that a big part of their training was focused on customer privacy and the infrastructure at hand, said Kaitlyn Woods, Media Specialist for Eversource.
Tweed further spoke to Mesa’s experience with drone inspections, having worked with four other companies around the country conducting similar inspections, and that Eversource will be their biggest project to date. Tweed explained that Mesa has been doing these sorts of inspections for over two years, with its pilots having been operating drones for several years before that.
Mesa has over 120 registered engineers who can support the project, Tweed said, so if customers need additional services they will be able to assist.
Customers need not worry about being caught off guard by the flying objects’ inspections. Burke stated that residents will be sent a letter a week or two ahead of time with information including when and where the drones will be scheduled to do inspections. These letters will include a phone number for customers to call with any questions or concerns ahead of time.
For more information regarding the drone inspections and other Eversource projects call (888) 926-5334 or visit www.eversource.com