Sharper Shape, SkySkopes string transmission lines using drones

October 11, 2017  - By

A pair of companies is using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for powerline construction.

Sharper Shape, a drone-based automated inspection provider, and SkySkopes, a professional UAS flight operator, took on a project in cooperation with an investor-owned utility.

Photo: Sharper Shape

Photo: Sharper Shape

The mission used the Sharper A6 UAS to string sock lines for a 675-kilovolt line construction project.

Sock pulling, the act of flying a strong and lightweight rope and attaching it to the towers, is typically performed via helicopters or by workers climbing the towers.

Both these methods involve risk to both helicopter pilots and ground crews. The use of UAS is eliminating the previously complex process — consisting of several steps of reattaching the rope — and decreasing the risk of injury for people involved.

The mission highlighted how UAS are a safe and effective option for many applications in the utility industry beyond basic inspections, according to Matt Dunlevy, CEO and president of SkySkopes.

“This is a great proof of concept for unmanned aircraft because we proved that they can string both the outboard lines and the center line through the middle of the center phase of a tower,” Dunlevy said. “There are risks associated with both helicopter and tower climbing methods. Now there is another option as proven by Sharper Shape and SkySkopes.”

Photo: SkySkopes

Photo: SkySkopes

“When the utility first reached out there were lots of unknowns,” said Paul Frey, director, electric utilities for Sharper Shape. “Working as a team, we pulled together, developing a test plan and executing the flights.”

The team modified a heavy-lift small UAS to carry line, and then ran five test flights to test objectives related to pulling the line through each of the tower phases and setting the line on the center pulley.

SkySkopes’ pilots are trained for difficult missions, often flying advanced heavy-lift multi-rotor aircraft with precision where autonomy is impractical.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.