Overhead line transport with drones.

The venue for the third pilot project with cargo drones was Meiersalp in the canton of St. Gallen – a small, wooded hiking area in Toggenburg. This time, 17 overhead line masts with a total weight of approximately 1500 kg were transported to the valley by drones from the Italian company FlyingBasket. This project was a new experience for all involved and was successfully executed.

28.04.2022
Author Martina Strazzer

Overhead line transport with drones.

Exceptional effort.

This drone flight was revolutionary. First of all, because controlling the drone through the inaccessible terrain required a lot of preparation and concentration. And second, because the drone was used to transport overhead line masts weighing up to 80 kg for the first time. Similar missions have only been carried out with helicopters to date.  

The be all and end all of preparation.

The preparatory work was extensive and took some time to complete. In addition to the FOCA approval process for the flight of the drone, all local residents and farmers were informed in detail about the flight routes by cablex. Signals were installed along the alpine paths and power sources for charging the drone batteries were organized and put into operation.

Of course, all work in connection with the dismantling of the overhead lines also had to be completed in advance. The exact location of the masts that had been laid down and were awaiting removal was recorded graphically and all those involved in the project were informed. A detailed safety briefing before starting work on site is always an integral part of every drone operation.

Why use drones?

The health and safety of our employees was the focus of this drone operation. As a rule, the demolition and replacement of overhead line masts is carried out by hand by our cablex colleagues. In rough terrain, this operation is dangerous and also energy-sapping. Drones could take over the role of load transportation in the future. 

In essence, we would like to use the pilot project to check whether the necessary operational capability (tools, processes, costs, quality, safety) can be achieved in order to potentially start with load transports using drones in real and competitive terms in the operational areas of cablex Wireless and cablex Field Services as early as the second half of 2022.

Decision in 2022.

The pilot phase will be completed over the coming months. Among other things, plans are in place to transport material directly to the technicians on the antenna. We are working wholeheartedly and with dedication to evaluate all the findings and monitor further developments in the market. Our goal is to apply new technologies in areas where they can make everyday tasks easier and are economical. So the use of cargo drones could already be an integral part of our daily work next year.  

If you want to review the first two drone flights for material transport, follow these two links:   

•    Transportation of material with the help of drones.
•    Second drone pilot case from cablex.

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