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Carbonix drones fly ‘out of sight’ to survey power network

Manufacturing News

Drone manufacturer and solutions provider Carbonix has flown its drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS), completing a mission with SA Power Networks inspecting 150km of powerlines in remote South Australia.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approved BVLoS mission paves the way for Carbonix’s drones to inspect South Australia’s vast electricity distribution network of more than 180,000 square kilometres.

Carbonix and SA Power Networks have been working together to advance the use of long-range Un-Crewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in aerial inspection work of remote electricity distribution network assets for the past 18 months.

The milestone mission makes 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.

Swoop Aero drones have carried out similar flights.

Currently, inspections are done by helicopters and light planes or ground crews – the operational and environmental benefits of replacing these with Carbonix drones would see an up to 80 percent reduction in operating cost and up to 98 percent reduction in CO2 output while improving safety and efficiency.

Carbonix CEO Philip van der Burg said the flight was the dawn of commercialisation reality for the Australian drone industry.

van der Burg said: “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.”

With drones more easily deployed than conventional aircraft, as well as accelerating asset inspection cycles, their adoption would also improve response times to outages, fault finding, bushfire preparedness, maintenance work and planning and documentation of line re-stringing.

This would support the reliability of electricity supply, particularly for the 30 percent of SA Power Networks customers living in regional and remote areas of the state.

Head of Corporate Affairs for SA Power Networks Paul Roberts said the business was focused on innovation to continue to improve management of the network and drive efficiency benefits.

“Our crews 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.”

Picture: SA Power Networks/Carbonix Volanti UAV`

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to make clear that this is the first flight by a craft of its type.

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