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FirstEnergy Shows Off New Infrared Vegetation Capability

Pipeline Patrols Easier Than Ever Thanks to Newfangled Tech

A power company in Ohio advertised its new fleet addition, a suite of infrared imaging equipment recently installed on its helicopters flying the lines.

FirstEnergy has been forced to undertake patrols for years using nothing more than the standard-issue mark I eyeball, ensuring that vegetation had not grown to encumber their transmission lines. Pipeline patrol has traditionally worked that way - low-level overflight all along thousands of miles of wiring, close enough to distinguish overgrowth from canopy. Now, however, FirstEnergy has added infrared imaging gear to its aircraft, allowing them to let the machine take up the troublesome task of distinguishing wiring from greenery. 

They haven't just added infrared, either. In 2016, they made the jump to equip their inspection aircraft with LiDAR units, allowing them to measure the gap between lines and leaves from a distance. All together, their busy season is easier than ever, allowing them to breeze through their busy season faster than ever before. Shawn Standish, FirstEnergy's Director of Vegetation Management, said the newfangled tech is greatly appreciated.

"This cutting-edge technology helps to ensure that we are keeping our transmission lines clear of potential interference across our service territory, which is critical to protecting our system and maintaining the delivery of safe, reliable power to our customers."

Interestingly, FirstEnergy isn't just on a time crunch to ensure adequate power delivery. Before July, they face restrictions in patrolling due to Raptor breeding seasons. That makes operations around New Jersey a little tougher, since an untimely combination of poor weather, maintenance downtime, and airspace restrictions could add further delays.



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