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FirstEnergy using helicopters, infrared technology for vegetation management inspections

Technology helps identify trees or vegetation that could impact high-voltage power lines

To keep power flowing safely and reliably, FirstEnergy Corp. is conducting proactive aerial inspections of nearly 7,000 miles of transmission lines in its service territory using helicopters equipped with infrared technology.

This work helps ensure that high-voltage power lines and equipment remain clear of trees and vegetation.

The aerial vegetation management inspections are scheduled to take place from May to mid-September in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. The helicopters will fly approximately 300 to 400 feet above the transmission lines at speeds between 25 and 35 miles per hour.

The helicopters will be equipped with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) units, which FirstEnergy began using for vegetation management inspections in 2016. The units help prevent potential power outages by using a laser’s infrared light to measure distances between transmission lines and vegetation, confirming that lines are clear or identifying potential issues that cannot be observed during regular visual inspections. If any clearance concerns are identified by the helicopter patrols, ground crews will follow up to further inspect or address.

“This cutting-edge technology helps to ensure that we are keeping our transmission lines clear of potential interference across our service territory, which is critical to protecting our system and maintaining the delivery of safe, reliable power to our customers,” said FirstEnergy’s Director of Vegetation Management Shawn Standish.

The helicopter pilots will communicate with local airports when they are in their air space, and inspections in New Jersey will not take place prior to July 29 due to regulations around raptor nesting.

Inclement weather could impact flight schedules and extend the timeline of the inspections.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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