Monitoring tens of thousands of miles of power lines is important to keeping the lights on, and PPL Electric Utilities is increasing its use of drones to make that process more effective and efficient.
We recently began using drones to patrol the lower-voltage distribution lines that are typically found along neighborhood roads. It’s an expansion of our use of drones to help patrol transmission lines, the larger and taller high-voltage lines and poles that carry electricity over long distances.
Having certified pilots operate drones along our lines helps improve reliability because we can spot potential issues before they cause an outage. Drones can capture images of lines and related equipment, like transformers, and they’re capable of thermal imaging to spot hotspots that can signal problems. Drones also use a tool that measures the distance from trees to power lines. This helps us know when we should trim trees to potentially prevent an outage.
Before drones patrol a distribution line, customers along the line receive an automated phone call to let them know about the upcoming work. The drones focus only on lines and related equipment, not on surrounding areas. We only fly drones on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and never at night, or on weekends or holidays.
Drones give us a much closer and detailed look at power lines, a view not available to a PPL worker on the ground or even a helicopter. Plus, they improve safety by reducing the time that workers are in areas close to live power lines.
We know spotting a drone over a power line near your home might cause you to do a double take. We’re committed to using this equipment responsibly to improve reliability and increase efficiency, so we can keep your electric rates reasonable.