Powercor gets head start on vegetation inspection

Helicopter pilot prepares for flight (Powercor inspection)
One of the helicopters used by Powercor for vegetation inspections

Helicopters have begun carrying out vegetation inspections over parts of south-west Victoria as part of Powercor’s efforts to keep the electricity network safe and reliable.

The aircraft are fitted with advanced Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to scan for vegetation growing near to powerlines.

The network operator has completed its 2021 LiDAR flight schedule and is wasting no time starting the new season, beginning with the south-west region.

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Headed up by a team of highly qualified pilots, the Powercor inspection flights are taking place in Portland, Warrnambool, Terang, Mortlake, Hamilton, Colac and Camperdown areas.

Weather permitting, the Bell 505 helicopters will be flying at an altitude of just over 300m, capturing enormous amounts of data to form a 3D image of powerlines across the region.

Powercor head of vegetation management Chris Heinz said the inspection data was analysed to help inform Powercor’s annual tree-cutting schedule.

“We do this on a rolling annual basis so we have the most up-to-date data possible,” he explained.

“This helps us to ensure we identify which trees to cut, by how much and when.”

Heinz said the helicopters were fitted with a Riegl sensor system which uses LiDAR scanning technology to accurately measure the distance between any tree branches or other vegetation and the electricity network.

LiDAR scan (Image: Powercor)

“This is all about community safety and it’s something we’re continuing to invest in as we work to keep the network safe and reliable.”

Vegetation management is part of Powercor’s broader bushfire mitigation program, which also includes an extensive asset inspection and maintenance program, and the installation of new safety technology on the network.

Powercor is responsible for the cutting and removal of trees near its 88,000km of powerlines within the boundaries of private properties and on public land, in order to maintain the required safe clearance space.

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The helicopters are operated by the network’s affiliate business, Beon Aerial Services.

About the fleet:
• Aircraft: Bell 505 helicopters
• Fleet size: Two aircraft
• Crew: Two pilots per aircraft
• Top speed: 232km/h
• Slow cruise speed for LiDAR capture: 129km/h
• Range: 617km
• Aircraft length: 12.93m
• Aircraft height: 3.25m
• LiDAR system: RIEGL VUX-240
• LiDAR scan speed: 1.8MHz and 400 lines per second
• Data capture: 1TB per aircraft per day