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Taking to the sky for reliability

August 17, 2020 | Jason Kuiper | reliability, T&D
T&D_Drone Sub Inspections_2020_homepage3

OPPD took to the air to inspect eight substations across the service territory in early August.

The drones, flown by UAV Recon, primarily inspected 345-kilovolt (kV) substations in Washington, Douglas, Sarpy, Cass and Otoe counties. Some 161-kV substations were also inspected.

The drones, unmanned aerial system (UAS), used high-resolution, color images and video to look for potential problems. A radiometric thermal camera measured the temperature of surfaces by interpreting the intensity of an infrared signal that reaches the camera. The addition of radiometric imaging enables drones to capture temperature data in every pixel of an image.

OPPD line maintenance technician Gary Wohlman said the drone inspections “indicate if we have any hotspots on any connections or breakdowns on insulators.” Plus, they allow OPPD to “get a more true and honest reading from the infrared inspection.”

The flights started the morning of Aug. 4 at Fort Calhoun Station and progressed south, ending at Nebraska City Station. From that evening into the early morning hours, the flight path was reversed and the thermal images were captured.

The thermal images are also radiometric, so that OPPD officials can go back and calculate temperature measurement and correlate it with the circuit’s load at the time of the photo, said Dusty Birge, with UAV Recon.

Wohlman said the inspections are another measure OPPD takes to ensure reliability on its system. It is one of numerous measures the utility completes each year to ensure power is there for customers. Substations are one of the first stops for energy. After it leaves the power plant, a substation lowers the voltage on the way to customers’ homes.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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