A unique helicopter system that can ‘catch’ live high-voltage wires, allowing National Grid to carry out repairs and maintenance without affecting power supplies has been unveiled by Bond Helicopters Europe (Bond).
The custom-built equipment, the only one of its kind in the country, allows National Grid technicians to safely carry out essential works on live high-voltage power lines from an AS355 Twin Squirrel helicopter, without having to interrupt the power supply.
The system uses a helicopter to carry two technicians in a custom designed basket which ‘catches’ and then lifts the cable. A sensitive load measuring system and a series of high-definition cameras on the helicopter tells the two pilots precisely where to position the aircraft, giving the technicians a safe and stable platform to work from.
Bond’s Director of Design and Completion, Jeremy Liber, explains: “Carrying out maintenance on high-voltage power lines often means shutting down a section of the grid. But this innovative helicopter system allows technicians to get to work in otherwise inaccessible places, without interruptions to power supplies.”
Chris Land, Live Working Operations Engineer for National Grid, said: “National Grid’s role is to deliver electricity safely and sustainably to homes and businesses across Great Britain. Our high-voltage network has a 99.999% reliability record and this is something we are really proud of. Being able to work on live lines, and not take them out of service means that we reduce the risk of disruption to the network but can still carry out essential work to keep our assets in healthy working order.”
The system is the culmination of more than two years of work by teams at Staverton-based Bond.
Jeremy said: “Working with aircraft and high-voltage power lines means safety is absolutely the number one priority. Our teams needed to take careful consideration of a variety of issues, from dealing with high-voltage systems and specialist insulating ropes to carefully calibrated load measuring systems.”
The design and manufacture culminated in an intensive five-week flight test, where every possible issue was confronted and safely dealt with. The system has now passed the stringent requirements of the European Aviation safety Agency and is soon to begin operations with National Grid.
Richard Mintern, Northern Europe CEO for Bond’s parent company, Avincis, said: “This is a great example of applying innovation to meet complex and demanding customer requirements. There is zero margin for error in these critical operations and I am delighted we have been able to develop such a ground-breaking solution.”
Avincis is one of the world’s leading providers of aviation services for mission-critical operations such as medical emergency, civil protection, search & rescue, coast and city surveillance, firefighting and energy support services. Part of Babcock International Group plc, Avincis provides central resources, safety and operating standards and systems and expertise to its operating companies who serve local markets and customers in Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, UK, Norway, Australia, Sweden, Finland and Ireland. Of primary importance is the Group’s oversight of safety standards across all its operations, with a global target of zero accidents.
Avincis operates a fleet of around 350 aircraft and employs around 3000 people. In 2013, Avincis flew over 98,500 hours worldwide, performed 51,450 emergency medical service missions, 6,350 firefighting missions, 2,100 seas and mountains rescues and transported 173,000 oil and gas engineers, technicians and other passengers.
For more information on Avincis visit www.avincisgroup.com.
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