North Dakota Companies Deploy UAS to Help Construct Power Lines

In cooperation with an investor-owned utility, North Dakota-based companies Sharper Shape and SkySkopes recently executed a power line construction mission using an unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

Specifically, the partners deployed the Sharper A6 drone to string sock lines for a 675 kV line construction project.

Sock pulling – the act of flying a strong and lightweight rope and attaching it to the towers – is typically performed with helicopters or by workers who climb the towers, the companies explain. However, both of these methods involve risk to both helicopter pilots and ground crews.

“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,” says Matt Dunlevy, president and CEO of SkySkopes. “There are risks associated with both helicopter and tower climbing methods. Now there is another option, as proven by Sharper Shape and SkySkopes.”

Sock-Pull7 North Dakota Companies Deploy UAS to Help Construct Power Lines

Sharper Shape, headquartered in Grand Forks, provides drone-based automated inspection and maintenance planning services for infrastructure asset owners. The Sharper A6, designed for beyond-visual-line-of-sight asset inspections, uses a Sharperscope 5.0 multi-sensor system and proprietary automated analysis software. Also based in Grand Forks, SkySkopes is a commercial UAS flight operator with a focus on energy infrastructure inspections.

“When the utility first reached out, there were lots of unknowns,” notes Paul Frey, director of electric utilities for Sharper Shape. “Working as a team, we pulled together, developing a test plan and executing the flights. We ran five test flights to test a number of objectives related to pulling the line through each of the tower phases, triggering the ‘PAC Man’ and setting the line on the center pulley.”


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