This year’s transmission line inspection from the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative was decidedly more low-key than in previous efforts, when the company used a piloted helicopter to make the rounds. In fact, local residents likely have no idea the weeks-long process was taking place, as CVEC deployed an unmanned aerial system to conduct its annual survey.
Powered by battery, the drone is operated from a remote Virginia location by a Federal Aviation Administration-licensed pilot from PrecisionHawk, its North Carolina-based manufacturer. It then navigates its inspection route with a Lidar scanner, a light-energy laser that scans the surrounding area to configure an active 3-D map of the local topography, complete with the position and movements of nearby objects. Once the drone reaches the designated areas, it snaps photos of the infrastructure with its built-in camera.