Menu

Hover, Zoom and Click: Camera Technology Sharpens Focus for Entergy Line Inspections

Published: 09/21/2017

From the day the first pole was planted to hold an electric line, service reliability has depended on the safe prevention and correction of equipment problems. But considering the size of today’s grid, that task is no small feat.

Entergy’s transmission system includes 15,700 circuit miles of transmission line and 1,500 substations. This infrastructure spreads over mountain ranges, marshes and piney woods. Many of these areas are remote, difficult and time-consuming to access.

Entergy employees use an array of high-tech tools to get the job done. High-powered binoculars, utility task vehicles, marsh buggies, boats, drones and helicopters are just a few of the tools needed to access, inspect and maintain critical infrastructure. And each tool has its pros and cons.

Recently, high-powered cameras have proven a useful way to inspect infrastructure while controlling costs. Pat Hoffpauir, an Entergy operations coordinator in Beaumont, Texas, is using a digital single lens reflex camera with a super-telephoto lens to supplement the corona and infrared cameras already in use. The high-powered lens enables inspectors on the ground to capture shots of equipment at the very top of transmission structures. The camera’s GPS unit helps pinpoint the location of problems.

“Helicopters are very good for looking at lines quickly,” said Hoffpauir. Helicopters pose risks, however, as potential crashes can cause physical injury and property damage.

From the day the first pole was planted to hold an electric line, service reliability has depended on the safe prevention and correction of equipment problems. But considering the size of today’s grid, that task is no small feat.

Drones are also handy. They can capture high-definition video and high-quality still photos. But current drone cameras have limited zooming and exposure adjustment capabilities. 

In some cases, the high-powered camera Hoffpauir is using provides equal or greater visibility and capability, but with lower costs and fewer risks.

The technology is already delivering benefits for Entergy customers. Last April, inspections from the ground and air failed to reveal the cause of an outage in Louisiana. Hoffpauir inspected the line using several cameras. The corona camera picked up unusual activity on the line. By cropping the image from his high-powered camera using the zoom lens, he discovered signs of a recent electrical flash, which had caused the outage.

Hoffpauir, an avid amateur photographer, has already used cameras extensively in both Texas and Louisiana. He now plans to travel to other Entergy operating companies, both to take photographs and help train other employees on the technique.

“By applying a personal skill to help resolve an issue at work, Pat is demonstrating the kind of innovative thinking we encourage from our employees every day,” said Jeff Guy, Entergy transmission lines manager. “Creative solutions and improvements help us provide reliable electrical service to our customers while controlling costs.”

Learn more about the expansion and improvement of Entergy's transmission system.

Corporate Editorial Team