Throughout April, Gunnison-based electric cooperative Gunnison County Electric Association contracted with UAV Recon to perform a system check of all 1,096 miles of GCEA distribution lines and power poles using drones. This is the second year of the co-op’s three-year drone inspection project.
This innovative use of drones is becoming more common among Colorado’s electric cooperatives, as drones can get to the hard-to-access regions in electric co-op service territories.
GCEA’s goals with this project are to identify maintenance issues to ensure better system reliability and to assist the co-op in fire mitigation efforts. The drone footage allows crews to be more efficient, as the data collected shows exactly where crews need to go to repair or troubleshoot.
“It also allows us to have pictures of all the pole top assemblies to assist our staking engineers,” GCEA Member Relations Supervisor Alliy Sahagun said. “With walking line inspections, [crews] can never see the pole top or the top of a cross arm where most of the decay will show. A drone shows all aspects of the structure.”
So far this inspection period, the photos collected across GCEA territory have revealed only a few issues that need to be addressed quickly, such as a few “danger trees,” (trees that could potentially fall into power lines and equipment, sparking a wildfire) and pins ready to fall out of insulators.
GCEA alerted consumer-members of the drone inspections via press releases, social media postings and ads in the local newspaper.