ARE-AirShark recently participated in a pilot project with Eversource Energy to evaluate the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems in distribution infrastructure assessment and Post-Storm response. This project included power line inspections and an aerial LiDAR scans of approximately 10 miles of Eversource distribution network in New Fairfield, CT: an area with extensive damage cause by tornadoes over the summer. The primary goal of the project was to evaluate how different UAS’s could be used for post-storm damage assessments. As this was the first time Eversource had deployed drones on its distribution network, extensive community outreach was undertaken prior to deployment to ensure the community was aware of the project and the benefits to the community.
Data collection began on November 7th, with 2 flight teams collecting data: one team doing LiDAR acquisition and one team doing detailed visual and thermal inspections. With the support of additional team members, two traffic flagging teams, and state troopers, the flight crews covered the 10 miles in less than 3 days. To better manage the data of over 300 poles, Ian Ray, our Director of UAS Technology, created a field inspection mobile application. The data recorded by this app was used to catalogue inspection images more efficiently and saved a significant amount of field and processing time. With the combination of GIS data from the mobile app, inspection aircraft, and LiDAR scans, ARE-AirShark was able to provide an accurate assessment and model of the distribution lines within the area of interest.
Overall, the pilot project was a success! The community response was very positive and the crew proved that UAS can be safely deployed in suburban environments with minimal impact, high efficiency, and improved data accuracy. The ARE-AirShark team is grateful for the opportunity to work with Eversouce to evaluate UAS integration systemwide and we look forward to continuing this journey as a trusted vendor.