The Linebird system is a powerful expansion to utility UAS operations

Linebird is an innovative patent-pending method for taking contact measurements of live transmission infrastructure using modified linemen's tools. 

photo of utility line maintenance by drone

As power lines age, failures will increase 

The resilience of power lines against catastrophic failures of splices and deadends has been and will continue to be a serious problem for electric utilities.

EPRI research1 has shown the worst causes of deterioration in compression connectors are due, in order of importance, to:

  1. No inhibitor compound in two stage connectors.
  2. Under crimping.
  3. Conductor not cleaned, i.e. new wire appears “clean” but has a hard layer of transparent Al oxide.
  4. Outer aluminum strands cut back too far. Aluminum sleeves on splices may not be centered.

Electrical loading combined with these causes of failure increase the resistance of the connection over time. Resistance is the quantifiable, true condition of the connection, assessed by measurement with the hot line Ohmstik™.

Temperature, indicated by Infrared Imaging (IR) at any given time, is also an indicator. However, temperature varies widely with the electrical load and wind speed at the time of observation and can mask the seriousness of the condition. A major barrier to quantifying the actual risk of failure of power lines has been unavailability of practical and economic means of quantifying the risk of connector failures.

1 EPRI presentation, EDM International Conference on Overhead Lines, Fort Collins, CO, March 26, 2012

Improving safety and reducing costs

Linebird is working to provide practical and cost-effective means for power transmission connectors to be inspected by combining the Ohmstik™ with UAS deployment capability. UASes will provide quick, easy access to all deadends and splices, on center and bottom phases, where helicopter live line platforms cannot work.

The innovation is achieved by combining the mature Ohmstik™ measurement technology with the capability of UAS deployment. This will provide a revolutionary capability to achieve power grid reliability and resilience.

This solution will drastically improve the safety and cost factors of utility inspection and maintenance, resulting in reinvestment of savings into grid improvements, cheaper electricity, and a more reliable grid for all. Linebird’s system allows existing manned utility crews to focus on higher value and lower risk operations.

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