APS using drones to inspect wildfire damage to transmission lines

No doubt about it, drones are cool. They can take amazing photos of hard-to-access places and from vantage points the average human would be hard-pressed to find. At APS, we’ve harnessed this technology to make restoration safer and more efficient after events like storms and wildfires.

This summer's Backbone Fire burned nearly 41,000 acres in the Childs/Fossil Creek area near Strawberry, damaging some of our infrastructure. When the area was deemed safe, crews went to work restoring poles and lines that serve customers in the area, but one line was going to be out of service through the summer due to its location and the extensive damage. Although customers were able to receive power from other sources we have in place, it was critical to fix this line as quickly and safely as possible to ensure long-term reliability.

aerial view of transmission lines with wildfire damage around a portion of the lines
In the past, crews would hike into such sites to take measurements and surveys to assess the work needed to restore the line, raising concerns around employee safety. Today, we can do this work safely and efficiently miles away from the actual site -- by using drones.

Transmission Maintenance Manager Shane Hrober appreciates this safety aspect. “During these blazing wildfires fires, obstacles are created with fallen vegetation, requiring the hikers to sometimes go up and over whatever is in the way,” he notes. “Now, the drones provide a clear look at the landscape and damage from afar, keeping crews safe and focused on other restoration projects. This also assists in effectively understanding what is needed to complete the repair and restore the line.”

Using a drone, the team was able to view video footage, take measurements and determine which portions of the line were destroyed by the fire. Engineers can now evaluate this information and use it for sketches as they create a plan for fixing the line – all without stepping foot on the job site.

Using this technology, we are able to complete the construction and restore the line before the end of November. Now that’s progress!

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