Manned Helicopters vs. UAV: Searching for the Best Methods of Power Line Inspection
Mantas Vaskela CEO of Laserpas, an aerial power line inspection boutique, along with Iulian Bogdan a representative from Distributie Oltenia, a power distribution company from Romania, spoke at the Commercial UAV Expo in Amsterdam on April 12, 2018. The main topic of the discussion was the use of manned helicopters vs. UAV in aerial power line inspections. Laserpas provided inspection services for Distributie Oltenia; making the presentation unique as both parties shared experiences from vastly different points of view.
Vaskela and Bogdan were able to talk candidly about Laserpas’s project, the technology employed, and the results acquired. Distributie Oltenia supported Laserpas’s claims of greatly speeding up the inspection process while providing unprecedently accurate data.
Vaskela described how Laserpas was able to obtain accurate data while using a helicopter moving at speeds around 100 kilometers per hour, as opposed to launching a drone at each location requiring inspection. The discussion touched on the legality issues of operating drones and helicopters, but the unreliability of drones was noted as the greatest hurdle for their use in power line inspection.
During the discussion, Vaskela presented all of the obstacles preventing drones from providing desired data quality. He stated that the biggest issue lies in the fact that they often crash when carrying the payloads required for inspections, but the short range of drones also creates issues. He described how power lines themselves create a multitude of issues for drones as well. When flying near a power line, drones often suffer from interference, GPS, and compass problems. Furthermore, the mass amount of data generated and the time it takes to transfer it were also described as pressing issues.
Vakela and Bogdan’s speech centered around involving the audience and creating constructive discussions. Power distribution and transmission companies as well as drone producers were able to ask questions and receive direct answers from both the service provider and client points of view. A representative from DJI, the well-known drone producer, also admitted that Laserpas seems to be the leading aerial power line inspection service.