As the Aeryon HDZoom30 imaging payload makes its way into the hands of operators worldwide, we are thrilled to share real-world imagery acquired in extraordinarily demanding conditions. Here we see the results of close inspection of remote elements of a national electrical transmission grid: exploiting the full 60x zoom capabilities of the Aeryon HDZoom30 to ensure a safe separation between the Aeryon SkyRanger and the target, without compromising the (remarkable!) quality of the images.
Q: Is that the K68 bolt?
A: Yes, in fact it is. And that bolt is over 100 feet in the air, halfway up the side of a mountain over 3000 feet above sea level, and 2000 feet away from the operator. If you’re interested, the text is less than an inch high, and there are 4 exposed threads on that bolt. Whether you’re analyzing structural integrity, planning preventative maintenance, or assessing damage to critical components, you won’t get a closer or clearer image without putting personnel at risk. And, with a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV, such as Aeryon SkyRanger, you can achieve vantage points not even possible by a technician climbing a tower.
Q: Why not just fly closer to the tower?
A: Those insulators are attached to power lines transmitting at potentials as high as 765 kV.
Any aircraft in close proximity to those power lines could be subject to a phenomenon called “Flashover.” Just like a lightning bolt arcing from the clouds to the ground, the electricity in power lines is compelled by physics to “arc” to any proximate object having a different electrical potential. Objects made from highly conductive substances – such as many components of a small UAV– are especially susceptible. The result of a Flashover – in addition to the loss of the aircraft – is, in most cases, a power outage. Routine inspection ceases to be a form of preventative maintenance; it now prospectively introduces more risk to the transmission grid.
This risk is compounded when we consider the circumstances in which Flashover is most likely to occur. When there is damage to (and, consequently, a reduction in the insulating properties of) insulators or the power lines themselves, the risk of Flashover increases significantly. And, logically, it is in such scenarios where close aerial inspection of the potentially damaged infrastructure is most valuable, and time critical!
Aeryon SkyRanger offers unrivalled positional accuracy and flight control among small UAVs. It will reliably maintain its position in the air, even in sustained winds up to 65kph. Regardless, for any aircraft, flying too close to power lines carrying 765 kV introduces substantial – and entirely unnecessary – operational risk. How close is “too close?” It depends, but in North America best practice is a stand-off distance of about 50 feet. So keep your distance, and let Aeryon SkyRanger and the HDZoom30 payload bear the technological burden of delivering stable, high-resolution imagery, of your high-value, hard-to-reach infrastructure assets.