Constellation Clearsight’s Methodology: Digital Utility Line Inspection Services

by: 7 min read

In this article:

  • Learn about our end-to-end approach to inspections
  • Learn how our defect prioritization schedule aids with informed decision making
  • Learn how our highly-trained crews utilize technology to replace manual processes

The electric grid is vital to everything we do at a residential level, as well as a broader community level. Homes and businesses depend on reliable electric service every day. Having a proactive maintenance program helps utilities optimize reliability and resiliency which minimizes service interruptions for their consumers and helps contribute to a safer community.

Constellation Clearsight provides inspection teams made up of drone operators and electrical distribution system subject matter experts (SMEs). We equip our teams with an arsenal of cutting-edge inspection technology including our patent-pending digital inspection process. A critical technological component is our customer portal, which enables a seamless integration into existing asset management workflows and the ability to recall inspection service records.

Our Perspective on Overhead Line Inspections

When looking at an overhead distribution system, the untrained eye will oftentimes only see a bunch of wood poles and wires. In order to inspect the system, one must understand how each feeder is designed, what methods of sectionalization have been implemented to protect critical equipment, and the load characteristics. A utility-centric quality program will account for these complexities and aid inspection SMEs in prioritizing conditions they find.

Most importantly, inspection crews must understand the inherent risks of working around energized electrical infrastructure. With safety being our number one value at Clearsight, we believe inspectors, whether physically inspecting or operating a drone in the wire environment, should have utility specific training and procedures. Having been founded within a large utility, Clearsight operates with world-class operations and safety practices derived from its utility pedigree.

At Clearsight, safety is our top priority and all inspection crews receive utility-specific training to ensure the best possible outcome.

Leaning on decades of complex problem-solving experience, Clearsight offers a balanced perspective on electrical infrastructure maintenance. Not only do we comprehend how the different types of electrical systems function, but we also understand the varying asset management priorities of utilities across the US. Instead of being simply another drone service provider, we are industry experts who deploy drones and software technology to help utilities solve and/or mitigate common and complex issues.

The combination of normal wear-and-tear and increasing severe weather events presents a perpetual maintenance dilemma for utilities. As new challenges and priorities emerge, vendors must remain at the forefront of new technology through innovation to keep up with the utilities. One of Clearsight’s most notable innovations is a comprehensive approach to overhead facility inspections.

Related Reading: Three Drone Inspection Data Management Tips to Help Utilities & Co-Ops Get the Most Value

Clearsight offers the industry’s first combined aerial overhead inspection with ground-line wood pole testing. With the cost of putting a person in the field to perform an inspection being the largest fixed cost to bear, this bundled approach consolidates two inspection practices into one contract. While at the facility, our ground-line inspector employs non-destructive pole testing technology to inspect the pole at its base, and a drone operator collects visual imagery of the overhead components. In addition to the visual inspection, we also offer the added benefit of performing other types of inspections, such as thermographic inspections, visual vegetation management, and system inventories.

Complete Pole Inspections

While some vendors differentiate themselves with lower pricing, we aim to deliver more value for our customers. Clearsight has pioneered an innovative new service offering for utilities where drones can be leveraged in tandem with ground-line pole inspections. We call this service the “complete pole inspection.”

After five years of research and collective feedback from our customers, we learned that traditional ground-line pole inspections left a gap to be filled. As simple as an inspection may seem, not every aspect of a distribution system is straightforward. We often discover issues from our aerial inspections that were not visible from the ground. Traditional inspection services may be missing key insights simply because they cannot be seen. This is where Clearsight will help.

Not every aspect of a distribution system is straightforward. With Clearsight, inspections teams are prepared to deal with any unforeseen challenges.

When we inspect a distribution feeder, we see the system from a birds-eye perspective, but we are also empowered to navigate around each pole to find the best vantage point on components of interest such as transformers, safety devices, and critical equipment. We focus our efforts on the system components that are subject to increased risk.

Many utilities across the country are now benefiting from the value of our complete pole inspection. The primary value-added benefit is that we are completing two different inspections while minimizing the number of trips to visit each pole. This bundled approach greatly improves operational efficiency and quality control. Let’s review what the complete pole inspection entails.

  • Overhead Visual Inspections by Drone: We deploy drones equipped with the latest visual sensors to capture high quality images of each facility. These images are then remotely analyzed to identify the components and any discernable defects. All findings are rated by priority level and reported back to the utility. One critical difference with our inspection is the ability to see wood rot on the tops of crossarms and pole-tops that would be difficult or impossible to see from the ground alone. This added benefit means we help you mitigate extraneous spending by consolidating the overhead visual inspection and ground-line pole inspection reports into one.
  • Non-Destructive Pole Inspection Tool: Our ground-line pole inspection is still a predominantly hands-on workflow; however, we leverage a digital non-destructive pole inspection tool for our service in lieu of traditional sound, bore, and excavate. The ability to diagnose pole health, measure pole circumference, measure remaining shell thickness, identify internal decay/rot, and calculate remaining strength is programmed directly into each tool we use. Since utility poles are manufactured to meet standard industry specifications, we can quickly and efficiently disposition wood pole inspections with better accuracy than a manual boring process. But that’s not all. The non-destructive properties of our process do not affect the serviceability of the pole and our reporting.
  • Intuitive Reporting Software: Forget spreadsheets and non-dynamic word document reports. Clearsight provides each utility customer with an intuitive online customer portal that gives immediate access to reports and detailed information 24/7/365. Each facility and line span are identified independently so that images and reports can be associated to the asset and findings can be easily filtered for finite analysis. Smart technology, SMEs, and an intuitive customer portal is required to make sense of the vast amount of data collected by drones and our Non-Destructive Pole Inspection Tool. Absent these the system owner will be either overwhelmed with data or unable to extract the full value from the data collected.

Our Utility Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

The most important factor of a preventative maintenance inspection is to successfully reduce the number of reactive events in the future. After all, this is how the utility achieves a solid return on its investment. Having a team comprised of utility SMEs enables Clearsight to identify defects, ascertain the root cause and recommend remedial actions. Our SMEs help us turn findings into actionable insights that continue to deliver downstream value after the inspection is complete.

Discover the Clearsight Difference

When you work with Clearsight, our teams of highly trained field operators and SMEs ensure that you receive the highest quality reports and a comprehensive approach to system reliability and resiliency. Working with Clearsight is hassle-free and efficient. We understand your current workflows and aim to create the least amount of disruption possible.

Request A Quote

  • Learn what it takes to implement a safe, efficient and sustainable robotic inspection program focused on delivering key insights for improving system-wide safety and reliability.







Related Content

Thermal Imaging Inspections for Electric Utility Equipment

By Colbey Ryan

Thermal imaging is a useful tool for transmission & distribution inspections. We use thermal cameras to help utilities & co-ops detect overheating assets…

Constellation Clearsight has potential to boost efficiency and improve safety in utility pole aerial inspections.

Drones Can Boost Efficiency & Improve Safety in Utility Pole Aerial Inspections

By Colbey Ryan

Use drone-backed solutions to reduce inspection time & reduce hazards in aerial utility pole inspections. Here’s how they empowering utility providers…

Discover the Power of Clearsight Today