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AUSTRALIAN FIRST: Carbonix drones fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) inspecting powerlines for SA Power Networks

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Drone manufacturer and solutions provider Carbonix has become the first Australian company to fly its drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) completing a mission with SA Power Networks inspecting 150km of powerlines in remote South Australia.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approved BVLoS mission paves the way for Carbonix’s drones to efficiently and safely inspect South Australia’s vast electricity distribution network of more than 180,000 square kilometres.

Carbonix and SA Power Networks have been working together to radically advance the use of long-range un-crewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) in aerial inspection work on remote electricity distribution network assets for the past 18 months.

Currently, inspections are done by conventional crewed aircraft (helicopters and light planes) or ground crews and the operational and environmental benefits of replacing these with Carbonix drones would see an up to 80% reduction in operating cost and up to 98% reduction in CO2 output while improving safety and efficiency.

With drones more easily deployed than conventional aircraft, as well as accelerating asset inspection cycles, their adoption would also improve response times to outages, fault finding, bushfire preparedness, maintenance work and planning and documentation of line re-stringing. This would support the reliability of electricity supply, particularly for the 30% of SA Power Networks customers living in regional and remote areas of the state.

Carbonix Volanti Drone

Picture: Carbonix Volanti Drone

The milestone mission makes Carbonix’s Volanti the first Australian fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone to execute a fully automated BVLoS flight, gathering commercially useful data for a customer.

Carbonix CEO Philip van der Burg said it marks the dawn of commercialisation reality for the Australian drone industry.

“This is such an exciting time for the drone industry and for the energy industry,” he said. “We’ve addressed the risks and barriers, both regulatory and technical, and proven the capability. Long-range drone adoption means improved safety, faster response times and reduced carbon footprint for companies like SA Power Networks. We’re thrilled to have partnered with them to achieve this Australian first.”

Head of Corporate Affairs for SA Power Networks Paul Roberts said the business was focused on innovation to continue to improve management of the network and drive efficiency benefits.

“We rely on aerial inspections to be able to meet inspection cycles. Our crews also drive about 20 million kilometres annually patrolling and maintaining our vast network. Being able to deploy over the horizon drone patrols will drive greater efficiency in our asset management program and provide genuine safety benefits for our people and community.”

About Carbonix

Carbonix is a world-leading Australian manufacturer and solutions provider of commercial Un-crewed Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Founded in 2012 by America’s Cup veteran Dario Valenza after initially specialising in high-performance composite structures and dynamic design, the technology was pivoted from flying boats to flying sensor platforms. Pioneers and specialists in the development of long-range Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) UAVs for aerial surveillance and precision data capture, Carbonix UAVs enable mission success by providing better insights on remote environments through intelligent, reliable and safe aerial data capture systems. 

About SA Power Networks

SA Power Networks is South Australia’s electricity distributor delivering power to 1.7 million people in an area covering about 180,000 square miles. It is ranked as the most efficient electricity distributor in benchmarking by the national energy regulator and continually innovates to improve efficiency and safety.

More about our drone program

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

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