Enwin Utilities approved to use drones to conduct inspections

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello



Enwin Utilities is among the first in Ontario to start using drones to conduct hydro-related inspections and address emergencies.

Transport Canada has given approval to the local utility company to start using the airborne camera device to check power lines and other hydro infrastructure.

Enwin demonstrated the drone in action Wednesday outside the Albert Weeks water treatment plant on the city’s east end.

“It is a great tool to have a flying camera that can get up quickly into spots we can’t get in to — tree filled or bushy areas,” said Jean Pepin, crane operator and recently certified drone pilot for Enwin.

“It helps us in spotting things we were never able to see before. You can get a whole different angle and perspective.”

The drone a few weeks ago was quickly put into use to help assess the damage following the tornado in Windsor.

“You got a great overall view on how bad it was,” said Jim St. Louis, manager of distribution for Enwin. “You had polls and wires down, transformers down. You could get up close and see the total amount of damage.”

The new Enwin drone, which cost $3,000, will be used nearly every day not only for emergencies, but routine maintenance checks, St. Louis said.

“We saw an opportunity to get this involved in our inspection program,” he said. “Rather than send two guys and bucket, you can send a pilot and a pickup truck that will give us photos and videos to keep on file.”

The drone has a range of up to two kilometres and can go up to 400 feet in the air, St. Louis said.

Enwin CEO Helga Reidel said the new drone will be “invaluable” for both the utility and the community.

“It’s great to have this new technology,” she said. “I applaud the innovation of our team that came up with this. It looks like it will save us a lot of time and be much more efficient when you are talking about poles or lines that can be hard otherwise to get to.”

In upcoming weeks and months, if the drone proves to be a valuable tool, Reidel said Enwin will purchase additional units and get more staff certified to pilot the machines.

“It’s really not that expensive,” she said. “If this technology proves to be useful we will do more.”