U.S., Canada Utilities Put Aeryon SkyRanger UAV to Work at Niagara Ice Boom

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Canadian utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) recently deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to inspect an ice boom between Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

The test with OPG – using one of its drones taking off from Fort Erie, Ontario – demonstrated how unmanned aircraft can easily identify any damage to the ice boom. Typically, a helicopter or boat is used to perform the task.

According to NYPA, the drone drill is part of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision, an effort to ensure a more resilient energy system for New Yorkers.

“Drone technology has so much potential for helping the utility industry monitor assets that need to be maintained in a safer, faster and more cost-effective way,” comments Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA’s president and CEO. “Aerial drones can gather data and images that provide a timely picture of any problems so that repairs can be expedited.”

The Lake Erie-Niagara River ice boom, a series of floating steel pontoons connected by steel cables, is installed each winter at the Niagara River mouth to reduce the amount of ice entering the river. The ice build-up at the hydroelectric water intakes can affect the hydropower stations operated by NYPA and OPG.

Specifically, OPG deployed an Aeryon SkyRanger UAV to fly over the ice boom for about 20 minutes; the drone also recorded a video of a section that appeared to be damaged. In turn, the on-land drone operator was able to determine that a span cable had broken between two pontoons and that the cable needed splicing repairs.

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[Source: UAS Weekly]