Helicopters are used for much more than line patrolling. The machines are used effectively in construction, delivering poles and even heavier loads to inaccessible areas.
The larger machines have also been equipped with special capabilities for stringing of lines which can help make the task much more efficient and also avoid any risk of land damage.
Routine Visual Line Patrol
This makes up 70% of our work. The helicopter flies just above and to one side of the line. Trained observers, using OS maps with overlays showing power lines and installations, report on 40 kinds of faults - ranging from deterioration to damage caused by storms, vandals and woodpeckers. If the condition is urgent, details are immediately telephoned to our electricity network control centre.
All routine work is plotted onto report maps or stored in a computer system.
About 130 to 160 km of line can be surveyed in a normal five-hour flying day split into two sorties. Two men and a Land Rover would take 10 days.
Thermal Line Patrol
A forward looking infra-red Kelvin 275 electronic camera is used with a digital video recorder to detect hot spot faults. Used mainly on the 132kV and 33/66kV systems, this technique can also show heat coming from buildings to measure how energy efficient they are. Utilising superior four-axis stabilisation, this camera system delivers exceptional TV performance, together with the latest technology in thermal imaging.
The system also gives advance warning of potential faults, helping to improve fault records, and ensures that we have an effective preventative maintenance policy.
Lifting and Stringing
All WPD helicopters have external lift capability of up to 750 kg, depending on fuel requirements. This work includes lifting and planting poles, lifting transformers and stringing conductors.
Transportation & Ferry Flights
This service covers any flight that is not line patrol and saves considerable time and money.
The helicopters can carry up to six passengers and provide an excellent aerial platform for photographic, video and film work.
Emergencies & Post-Fault Patrols
This is probably the most effective use of helicopters. The Unit has a great deal of experience in adapting to all kinds of emergency conditions. Some of the many tasks undertaken include detailed inspection, transporting work teams and equipment to difficult sites, lifting and construction.
Our contribution has often been a major factor in restoring electricity supplies as quickly as possible. We can also provide a quick response to requests for post-fault patrols. Reports are regularly available within three hours of a request for help.
How We Can Help You
Our Helicopter Unit has been gaining experience in this line of work since 1963, and the feedback from companies who have used our services is that we have outperformed non-specialist charter operators.
The range of work we undertake is changing and developing all the time. Helicopters are being used to assist with many different engineering projects both in WPD’s own territory and beyond. We believe this makes us good value for money.