Westar using drones for utility inspections, maintenance

WICHITA, Kan. – –  Kansas State University’s Polytechnic campus and Westar Energy have come together to help propel the electric industry forward.

They’ve partnered to help utilize drone technology, when doing inspection and maintenance of transmission lines.

The partnership between Kansas State and Westar dates back to 2013.

However, this year, they’ve pushed to get unmanned aircraft integrated into part of Westar’s services.

Jason Klenklen, the Transmission Maintenance Supervisor, has been in that department since 2011.

Klenklen says he inherited a program that used both rotary and fixed wing aircraft to conduct those patrols.

“I’ve had friends who’ve been killed during manned flights patrolling power lines and that’s kind of disconcerting,” said Klenklen.

Klenklen says it became apparent there was a better way to do things, especially with the technology that was coming out.

“The safety aspect of it is what primarily drew me to the drones and to integrating them into our system,” said Klenklen.

He says drones get him access to plenty of important information.

“With this camera, it gives me, it gives us real time feedback in low definition, but on-board the aircraft, it collects hi-definition photos,” said Klenklen.

The information he gets comes almost instantly.

He says for certain inspections, what could be a ten minute process, can be done in less than a minute.

Klenklen says the information they get from the drones allow them to document any problems, and refer back to them later if need be.

“We can take those and analyze those for loose hardware, when we fly the line and shoot video we can look for damage caused by lightning,” said Klenklen.

This allows those who do the inspection and maintenance of the lines to say out of harms way.

“These are essentially one more tool in our tool box and allow us to do our jobs more effectively and cost efficiently,” said Klenklen.

Klenklen is one of three team members that are currently remote pilot and command certified.

This means those three members were certified by the FAA to fly the drones.



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