Image: SSEN

Network operator Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is monitoring towers across central southern England with drones.

The company has over 1,500 towers on its 64,200km of overhead powerlines across the four regions of its distribution area.

The programme being undertaken with visual data management provider Cyberhawk, uses drones and its iHawk data management platform to inspect and visualise SSEN’s infrastructure without intrusion or inconvenience to nearby customers

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Traditionally engineers would be required to physically climb towers to assess their condition. The £420,000 programme reduces the risk to individuals scaling this infrastructure and accelerates the inspection process.

“SSEN’s towers are positioned in various different land types and even air spaces,” says Martin Bailey, SSEN’s maintenance and inspection manager.

“Prior to using the drones, we were required to climb the towers, bringing an element of risk to those involved and taking a great time to safely carry out the assessment. Most of our towers have walk in access so now only two people are required to operate the drone and this in turn results in minimal impact on the environment, and far less inconvenience for land owners and nearby residents.”

Further benefits have been a reduction of teams travelling and minimising of footfall on sites of special scientific interest, industrial and housing estates and even restricted airspace sites.

“By using drones we have been able to capture inspection imagery in a systematic way whilst keeping people’s feet firmly on the ground,” Cyberhawk’s CEO, Chris Fleming adds.

“We then evaluate the results in our secure cloud based asset management software, allowing SSEN to prioritise repairs efficiently with full visibility.”

SSEN supplies electricity to 3.1 million households in its distribution areas in England. The company also supplies about 740,000 customers in the north of Scotland.