Drone trial to inspect Western Power faults in Northam

The Northam and Geraldton areas have become part of a Western Power trail program, where drones are used to assist with visual inspections of faults.

Energy Minister Bill Johnston, who made the announcement last Friday, said the drones would increase response times to outages and detect faults, and were capable of withstanding electromagnetic interference, allowing safe navigation near powerlines.

He said drone pilots would be able to switch between two different cameras, a high powered zoom lens and thermal heat sensing, to see potential faults that would not be visible to the naked eye.

As part of the three-month trial, four Western Power fault crew members completed Civil Aviation Safety Authority training to become Remote Pilots and undertook specific training on inspecting powerlines.

Mr Johnston said using drones would help Western Power crews inspect assets in difficult-to-reach locations and address vehicle access issues in agricultural and environmentally sensitive locations.

"It is expected the trial will help reduce response times, costs, and risk relating to visual inspections of faults in regional areas," he said.

"It is exciting to see the potential benefits that drone technology can deliver to the community, as severe weather in the region can affect power supply and long feeder lines require intensive man hours to inspect."