A DJI drone
Drones can capture precise images of electrical assets, even in hard-to-reach locations. Image by HANDOUT/ENDEAVOUR ENERGY
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Drones replace helicopters for checking bush powerlines

Marion Rae February 18, 2024

Endeavour Energy will replace noisy helicopters with stealthy drones for its annual safety checks of over 13,000 kilometres of power lines in bushfire-prone areas.

“The upcoming bushfire season is especially concerning because the current summer’s rains and high temperatures have supercharged forest undergrowth,” according to Steve Lette, head of digital at Endeavour.

Previously, helicopters were the go-to choice for the NSW power distribution network that operates in Sydney’s western outskirts, the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, Illawarra and South Coast.

But Mr Lette said helicopters caused problems because of their noise level, particularly for customers with livestock.

“The introduction of drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and advanced sensors aims to mitigate these issues,” he said.

Under the control of a licensed operator, the gadgets work more quietly, follow pre-programmed flight paths and are designed to fly directly above powerlines which minimises the need to cross residential areas or farmland.

“They capture precise images of electrical assets, even in hard-to-reach locations,” Mr Lette said.

More than 2.4 million people rely on the poles and wires, and don’t want a repeat of devastating 2019/20 bushfires that choked the region and cut essential services.

Two of the worst affected coastal towns were the first to be equipped with a “community microgrid” to make them more independent during power outages.

Endeavour said around 100 homes in Bawley Point and Kioloa were fitted with subsidised solar panels or batteries in 2023 to help create the first microgrid of its kind in NSW.

To keep residents informed of drone flights, customers will receive SMS notifications in advance of an inspection near their property.