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Leveraging Lidar for Utility Vegetation Management

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Leveraging Lidar

Electric utilities have installed Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) units on helicopters, aerial drones or on the ground. While similar to radar, which uses radio waves to detect objects and their distances, LiDAR’s measuring capabilities are augmented by the ability to create three-dimensional models, high-resolution images and tap other key analytic options.FirstEnergy first began leveraging LiDAR, a remote sensing application using a laser’s infrared light to measure distances, in 2010 to identify potential transmission line clearance concerns. LiDAR identifies clearance distances between conductors and other objects in the right of way (ROW), providing vital verification in hard-to-reach locations.

From an article in T&D World by Luke Henne and Evelyn Mack.

Making a Case
Given FirstEnergy’s ongoing familiarity with LiDAR, along with advancements in the data
analytics aspects of the technology, the company’s Vegetation Management group sought to explore the feasibility of integrating LiDAR into its existing maintenance programs. In particular, the group looked to use LiDAR to validate compliance with North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) standards by confirming the lack of vegetation encroachments along the ROW.

“With nearly 300,000 total miles of power lines that help us serve more than six million customers in five states, trimming trees and controlling vegetation is vitally important for FirstEnergy,” said Rebecca Spach, director, Vegetation Management. “Our transmission lines alone stretch across more than 24,000 miles of diverse terrain. Maintaining required clearances in the farmlands of northern Ohio, the dense woodlands of Pennsylvania, the rugged mountains of West Virginia and Maryland, and the beaches and wetlands of New Jersey results in vegetation management challenges unique to each topographical area.“

To help ensure service reliability, FirstEnergy implements a layered vegetation management approach using its professionals, practices and protocols to not only meet existing standards, but also to constantly look for ways to advance safety, efficiency and reliability. The program includes planned cyclical vegetation management programs and yearly inspections from crewed aerial flights. Between planned maintenance cycles, it also conducts additional off-cycle foot patrols.

In 2016, FirstEnergy initiated a one-year pilot project to determine if LiDAR could help the company meet the high transmission vegetation management reliability standards already established. The goal was to determine if the vegetation management clearances could be verified and maintained through LiDAR with the same degree of accuracy, while potentially reducing the number of flights, truck rolls and foot patrols previously used.

For the complete article on leveraging lidar CLICK HERE.

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