Eastland Network, the electricity lines company for Wairoa, Gisborne and the East Coast, covers 12,000 square kilometres of often remote or hilly terrain.
As part of their ongoing asset management programme, the Eastland Network team carry out regular inspections of their poles, lines and conductors.
Until now, this has been done by vehicle or, in particularly inaccessible areas, on foot.
For the first time, Eastland Network will be undertaking inspections using a drone (unmanned aerial vehicle). They will be starting in the Ruakituri and Tuai area on 28 March, weather-dependent, followed by parts of the Mahia Peninsula.
“Using a drone in these rural locations will mean we can cover more ground very efficiently,” says Mikaere Ngarimu, Eastland Network Assets and Planning Manager.
“The data we capture is specific to the condition of our pole and conductor assets. We use this information to plan replacement and upgrade programmes, to help us maintain the resilience of the region’s electricity supply.”
The inspection team is made up of an engineer and a drone pilot from Preformed Line Products (PLP) who are specialists in asset inspections using UAVs.
The drone will fly at a range from 7 metres to 20 metres from the groundline. Eastland Network have notified farmers and others in the relevant areas.
All operations will follow best practice NZCAA aviation guidelines and data will be managed in compliance with the Privacy Act 1993.
“If this project proves to be a success, we will likely look at undertaking some future inspections via drone in the Gisborne and East Coast regions,” says Mr Ngarimu.