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Australian drones the next step in increased efficiencies for powerline asset inspections

Carbonix Drone trial 2 news hero

Australian drone manufacturer and solutions provider, Carbonix, has partnered with SA Power Networks and communications technology provider Nokia to prove the value of long-range drones (uncrewed aerial vehicles or UAVs) in inspection work on electricity distribution network assets.

Why use drone technology?

SA Power Networks is the most efficient electricity distribution service provider in Australia’s national energy market –partly due to innovative use of new technology, including developing the use of drones and robotics for asset inspections.

SA’s electricity distribution network covers a vast area of nearly 180,000 square kilometres, with 30% of customers living in regional and remote areas of the state. Patrolling and maintaining this vast network is challenging. 

We currently rely on helicopters for overhead line inspections. Drones provide a clear alternative when helicopters would not be safe to operate or suitable.

Drones will help us to patrol large areas for asset inspection cycles, fault finding, bushfire preparedness, maintenance work and line re-stringing while improving safety and efficiency for employees. 

The partnership

Partnering with SA Power Networks is Carbonix, a Sydney-based manufacturer of long-range drones and Nokia which has developed industrial-grade reliable and long-range wireless network connectivity.

In the initial phase of the partnership a Carbonix Volanti UAV will be used to prove the Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) capability. Currently drones are restricted to line-of-sight use in Australia, which limits the potential benefits for utility managers such as SA Power Networks with its extensive network covering a route length of 88,000 kilometres.

The Carbonix long-range UAVs have an extended flight range of over 500km – on par with helicopters, but safer to operate while delivering significantly reduced cost and impact on communities and the environment.

Benefits of the trial

This trial will help us demonstrate the value of beyond line-of-site (BVLOS) operations to aviation authorities in Australia.

We also expect to see evidence of a range of operational and environmental benefits. By replacing helicopters with Carbonix drones, we could see:

  • up to 80% reduction in operating cost 
  • up to 98% reduction in CO2 output compared with conventional piloted aircraft.

A successful integration of 4.9G/5G modems into Carbonix drones’ communications systems will result in: 

  • greater redundancy 
  • higher bandwidth 
  • increased coverage 
  • lower costs to obtain real-time data from drones engaged in long-range BVLOS operations. 

We have already found that our current use of drones has improved safety and access for our field crews. We believe the use of long range BVLOS drones will further enhance the safety of our people and improve our efficiency.

Read more about how we currently do inspections by aerial drones.

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