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New drone technology is under trial in the Ballarat region, as Powercor uses the technology to inspect powerlines in better and closer detail.

The piloted drones are already inspecting over 30km of powerlines across Ross Creek, Cambrian Hill, Napoleons and Buninyong. 

The use of drones is conducted alongside Powercor’s ongoing program of asset inspections, which are also being undertaken by crews in vehicles, on foot and by helicopter. 

A specialist team is trialling the Matrice 300 RTK— a powerful industrial drone platform with an  advanced flight controller system, six-directional sensing, real-time video transmission, thermal  imaging and obstacle-detection systems.

 This trial follows a project of similar technology in the Otways in September 2020, with results from the Ballarat trial to inform whether the technology is suitable for inclusion in Powercor’s continuous inspection program. 

Powercor Head of Network Asset Management, John Mifsud, said the drone inspections have covered a large area, quickly, with high definition cameras used to capture the condition of powerlines quickly and easily. 

Mr Mifsud said the area south of Ballarat was chosen due to its topography and environmental  factors, as well as network characteristics that make the location a good trial site. 

The drone trials also complement extensive foot patrols in the area in early 2021, following reliability issues over summer for customers south of Ballarat.

 Mr Mifsud said, “This trial is about finding new ways to keep our network operating safely and reliably.

“While these drones won’t replace our existing inspection methods, we’re looking at whether they have a permanent role in our program in the future.” 

Powercor manages its network of almost 90,000km of powerline and 588,000 poles through a  rigorous inspection and maintenance program, on top of a network-wide vegetation management program clearing trees and shrubs well away from powerlines. 

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