KEARNEY, Neb. — A Kearney alum brought his business back to the state, using drone technology to help utility linemen inspect power lines and poles.
The state of Nebraska has over 87,000 miles of power lines, making for over one million poles that electric utility linemen inspect. Now drones are helping out.
It changes the way things have been done for many years, but Dusty Birge with UAV Recon said using a drone to inspect power lines and poles saves electric utility companies time and resources.
"What the drone allows us to do is we can access the pole much easier. They don't have to de–energize the line to do the inspection and so we can capture significantly more data in a much shorter period of time and then plot the data so the utility can make decisions on which poles they're going to do maintenance on and put an outage plan in place to be a bit more pro–active,” said Birge.
Birge said they have inspected an amount of lines with their drones in just a few months, that would take some companies years. He also said the vantage points they get from the drone footage can make issues easier to spot.
"You can see a pole top split from the ground but it would be hard to see the cross-arm rotting from the ground because this is on the top of the cross arm. Not everything is visible from the ground so we're finding things visible from the ground and from the air which provides a comprehensive overview of the structure,” said Birge.
Birge said with the time and energy they're saving, they're able to get lines back up quicker- which helps folks at home– and are able to see issues before they become a problem. It also helps linemen spend less time in hazardous situations.
"It's very tiresome to walk across a pasture, to climb a pole or get a bucket truck out there and go up there and realize that you need material that you didn't anticipate so you have to go back to the office, get material and go back out so we're really providing an opportunity for linemen to do their job more effectively and efficiently and they love it," said Birge.
UAV Recon is expanding across the U.S. and will begin career development programs in Summer 2019 for students to show them about this emerging job pathway.