Drone technology delivers transmission first for Powerlink

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State-owned Powerlink is using drones to ‘string’ 50 kilometres of high-voltage power lines that will connect the 250 MW / 2,000 MWh Kidston pumped hydro energy storage project being built in north Queensland to the National Electricity Market.

Powerlink has been engaged by renewable energy developer Genex to deliver a 275 kV electricity transmission line and two associated switching stations to connect the pumped hydro project to the grid.

The network operator said the transmission project included the longest section of high-voltage electricity line strung by drones in the Asia-Pacific region.

Traditionally, power line installation or repairs are done via helicopters or by ground crews, but Powerlink Chief Executive Officer Paul Simshauser said Infravision’s drone powerline stringing system has to date proven to be more versatile, have less impact on landholders and safer than the established methods.

“We are constantly looking at ways to work smarter and connect Queenslanders to renewable energy in a cost-effective, safe way,” he said, noting that the use of drones for line stringing had been tested on smaller projects to determine the technology’s feasibility.

“This technology has proven to be less intrusive for landholders, safer for our team and gets the job done quicker.”

Founded in 2018, Infravision has developed a drone hardware and software technology system that can be used to install and upgrade overhead power lines.

Infravision core product, the TX System that is manufactured and assembled at the company’s facility on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, combines an electric winch on the ground that automatically spools the transmission line to the drone as it flies, delivering the power of a helicopter in a complete ground and aerial robotics system.

Infravision Global President of Air Operations Josh Williams said the partnership with Powerlink is setting new standards in the energy sector by delivering more efficient and sustainable transmission solutions.

“Our collaboration is deeply focused on enhancing the safety of Queensland’s workforce, minimising environmental impact, and ensuring we get the job done on time,” he said.

“We look forward to expanding our partnership with Powerlink to drive further innovation in transmission construction to deliver the safest, most cost-effective outcomes for the benefit of Queensland’s energy consumers.”

Infravision’s drone technology has already being used by some of the world’s largest electric utility companies, including New South Wales transmission network operator Transgrid.

The company is now exporting its technology to international customers in America, Canada and India and its workforce as grown to more than 70 employees in under five years and is expected to double in size, with an additional 70 jobs predicted in the next 12 months.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has estimated 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines will be needed in the six jurisdictions that make up the National Energy Market to ensure the nation’s clean energy transition.

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