Insights > Aerial saw improves reliability for Mississippi customers

Aerial saw improves reliability for Mississippi customers


Mississippi’s trees add year-round beauty to our state, but they can also be a hazard to the electrical grid. This is particularly true during times of drought. The Mississippi Forestry Commission recently released the 2024 Pine Mortality Report, which found that there are more than 12.5 million dead trees in the state resulting from the 2023 drought.

One of the best ways to reduce interruption to electric service is by maintaining adequate clearance between power lines and trees.

Entergy has 3,000 miles of transmission lines in Mississippi. Trimming trees along these lines from the ground can be challenging due to the terrain and access to the area where the transmission lines are located. Also, ground-based equipment cannot always reach the tops of the trees, so Entergy Mississippi uses another tool from its reliability toolbox: the aerial saw.

“Vegetation management is an important way to prevent outages, especially during severe weather,” said Shawn Corkran, vice president, reliability. “Having this tool allows us to cover the ground where trimming is necessary in far less time and at a reduced cost.”

The aerial saw, which Entergy recently brought back into operation in partnership with Aerial Solutions, Inc., extends 130 feet below a hovering helicopter and includes ten 24-inch blades. With a gentle throttle by the pilot, the suspended circular saw blades can trim a targeted 20-foot path through a clustered Southern tree line along the edge of a towering transmission line.

Through a massive team effort involving crews from vegetation management, capital projects, safety, power delivery, aviation and operations, an aerial saw project launched recently in Mississippi. After first trimming trees in an area between Vicksburg and Natchez, the crews moved on to trim vegetation along transmission lines between Clinton and Greenville. Additional areas for trimming may be added as those areas are completed.

Typical ground-based tree trimming equipment reaches a maximum height of 65-70 feet in the air. With the aerial saw, the sky is the limit. Using the aerial saw allows crews to complete projects in a fraction of the time that ground-based equipment takes. A project that would take eight months to complete with ground-based equipment can be completed in approximately four weeks with the aerial saw. Cutting down the time needed also reduces the costs of the projects.

“When we put together our tree-trimming strategy, the most important things to consider are the safety of our crew members, the ability to maximize reliability for our customers, and the efficiency of the operation in order to manage costs,” said Curtis Robertson, operations coordinator for Entergy’s vegetation support team. “The aerial saw is achieving all of the above, systemwide.”

Entergy performs trimming on transmission rights-of-way on an as-needed basis determined by aerial and ground-based patrols. Crews use industry measures to preserve the health of the trees to the degree possible. To do this, we follow specifications developed by the International Society of Arboriculture.

In addition, the Arbor Day Foundation has repeatedly named Entergy a Tree Line USA utility as a result of our commitment to proper tree pruning, planting and care in our service area. Learn more here.

Trimming around transmission lines represents just one facet of vegetation management. Entergy Mississippi also trims and removes trees that are too close to distribution lines. Learn more about how we trim trees.

Caron Blanton
Senior Communications Specialist, Entergy Mississippi