In a first, the government of Maharashtra is planning to conduct an aerial power line inspection using drones. Maharashtra is the first state in India to receive authorization from the DGCA to conduct the inspection using drones. The drones will be used for inspection and surveillance of Extra High Voltage (EHV) power lines and transmission towers across the state.
Minimizing risk using drones
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has permitted the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (MSETCL) to deploy drones along the power lines for the safety of the workers and increased efficiency.
“Workers who otherwise use ladders and chairs to inspect transformers can now use drones. The risk was higher in the hilly areas of the State. With the onset of monsoon, drones will be a boon for workers,” Milind Awatade, public relations officer, MSETCL, said.
The MSETCL stated that each of their zones will be assigned a drone equipped with an HD camera payload (thermal and color). In total, the corporation has procured 16 drones to complete the intra-state inspection. The drones will allow for better control and relay precise data to ground-based workers. Therefore, the UAVs will help in gathering data from remote points throughout the transmission towers and power lines.
Moreover, using drones will help in increasing worker safety while reducing the time taken for the power line inspection. Additionally, a drone can also be programmed to autonomously survey and collect data over a defined path. Reportedly, the drone will fly at a maximum altitude of 50 meters. These UAVs can get very close to the remote power lines, thereby displaying real-time footage. This will further help the MSETCL cut maintenance costs and ensure an uninterrupted power supply.
The MSETCL is in talks with the forest department for further expansion of the project to tribal and rural areas in the state. Drones in India have become more mainstream as their demand has grown significantly during the pandemic. Currently, there are 12 drone manufacturers in India that are NPNT compliant (check out the list here). Maharashtra has made use of drones in the agriculture sector earlier. However, when newer drone regulations are implemented, the inclusion of drones is expected to spread across the country.