Pole Condition Monitoring – Aurora Energy

GT's elMAST enables cost effective inspections of pole top infrastructure.
Aurora Energy, Hobart Australia

Business Challenge
Aurora Energy is a Tasmanian Government owned electricity distribution and retail company. Aurora is responsible for electricity supply to 255,000 customers across Tasmania.

Routine inspections of utility poles and related fixtures are usually carried out from ground level. However, such inspections cannot inspect the top of the pole, where pole top infrastructure is most exposed to the elements. Some deteriorations that are known as ‘scalloping’ or ‘canoeing’ in the top of the cross arm can lead to rot and subsequent failure.

Various methods can be employed to inspect the tops of poles including the use of an insulated pole or ‘hot stick’ with a camera mounted on it, or the use of an Elevated Platform Vehicle (EPV). Solutions using a ‘hot stick’ require two men to operate and are unable to reach the high 66 kilovolt lines. Inspection of hundreds of poles using an EPV involves considerable costs.

Services Overview
After having seen a demonstration of Geomatic Technologies (GT) elevated Mobile Assessment & Surveillance Tool (elMAST) service for Victorian power distributor Powercor, Aurora representatives asked GT to carry out a pole inspection of 600 suspect poles across the Tasmanian network.

Designed and built by GT, elMAST consists of a pneumatic 15m extendable mast that supports a wirelessly operated Pan-Tilt-Zoom digital camera. It is a generic installation and can be fitted to most vans or 4WD within minutes.

GT planned a route to efficiently inspect Aurora’s poles and undertook the appropriate OH&S training to Aurora’s safety standards.

At each site GT deployed the required safety measures and photographed the pole from the ground. Additional photos were taken of the surrounding area to facilitate the access and set-up of an EPV, should one be needed to undertake repairs to the pole.

With the elMAST deployed, high-resolution photography was taken of each pole top with close detail shots of the cross arm upper face. GT provided an attributed ‘points database’ of the inspected poles along with the associated digital photography for use in Aurora’s asset management system and GIS or Geographic Information System.

Outcomes

  • As only one single inspector was needed to operate elMAST, considerable labour cost savings were achieved compared with the potential costs associated with the deployment of an EPV or a ‘hot stick’.
  • The elMAST inspection was able to identify instances where a faulty batch of insulators had been installed.
  • elMAST delivered an improved knowledge of pole top infrastructure to mitigate potential equipment failures.
  • elMAST established a photographic benchmark of pole top condition to assess equipment deterioration over time.