Carbonix drones monitor remote power lines

Drone manufacturer Carbonix has partnered with electricity distributor SA Power Networks and communications group Nokia to utilise long-range Un-Crewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for aerial inspection on remote electricity lines and network assets.

In the initial phase of the partnership a Carbonix Volanti UAV (pictured) will be used to prove the Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) capability using the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) for wireless network connectivity,

The partnership comes as the state’s vast electricity network is reeling from powerful storms that have isolated the state from the national grid and blacked our areas of Adelaide for days.

South Australia’s vast distribution network covers an area of nearly 180,000 square kilometres, with 30 percent of customers living in regional and remote areas of the state.

Carbonix Australian-made UAVs will speed up the utility providers’ response times to outages affecting customers as well as asset inspection cycles, fault finding, bushfire preparedness, maintenance work and line re-stringing while improving safety and efficiency for employees.

Carbonix CEO, Philip van der Burg said: “Carbonix long-range UAVs will enable asset owners and operators to carry out inspections on remote linear infrastructure by providing an extended flight range of over 500km on par with helicopters at significantly reduced cost and impact on communities and the environment.”

SA Power Networks has used specialised multi-rotor drones for some areas of maintenance including to help re-string power lines over an area of sensitive native vegetation but continues to rely on helicopters for overhead line inspections.

Drones provide a clear alternative when helicopters would not be safe to operate or suitable.

The operational and environmental benefits of replacing helicopters with Carbonix drones could see up to 80 percent reduction in operating cost and up to 98 percent reduction in CO2 output compared with conventional manned aircraft.

Head of Corporate Affairs for SA Power Networks Paul Roberts said the business had been developing drone capability with 30 trained pilots across 30 depots already able to operate limited visual ‘line of site’ missions.

Roberts said: “Drones have proven themselves in a range of our operations. We believe the full value of drones to enhance the safety of our people and improve our efficiency will come with BVLOS capability.

“This trial will help us demonstrate the value of BVLOS to aviation authorities in Australia, who currently do not approve beyond the horizon drone use.”

A successful integration of 4.9G/5G modems into Carbonix drones’ communications systems will result
in greater redundancy, higher bandwidth, increased coverage and lower costs to obtain real-time data
from drones engaged in long-range BVLOS operations.

Rob McCabe, Head of Enterprise for Australia and New Zealand at Nokia said the company’s systems were being developed at it’s local 5G Industrial Incubation Lab.

van der Burg said: “BVLOS certification is a prerequisite for long-range UAV missions, allowing for more effective critical data collection, which enables better and preventative measures to enhance the safety for all stakeholder.

Picture: SA Power Networks

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