Cabling drones

Saving money and trees using drones to lay high voltage power lines in Guatemala.

The use of drones to inspect energy infrastructure is not new: from oil rigs to offshore wind turbines, drones have inspected them all. What is less well-known is that drones are being used to lay high-voltage electrical power transmission lines.

A forestry consultant in Guatemala commented, “Laying transmission lines using drones is not common in Central America but they have been used for inspection for a while. At the beginning it was difficult to explain the use of the drone to local residents but the social managers did a great job in explaining the benefits to land owners and community members. The drones have been well-received.”

“Laying transmission lines using drones is not common in Central America but they have been used for inspection for a while. […] The drones have been well-received.”

Forestry consultant, Guatemala

As of 2017, Transportadora de Energía de Centroamérica (Trecsa), a subsidiary of the multilatina Grupo Energía Bogotá (GEB), has been using drones to lay electrical power lines in Guatemala. This innovation reduces the need to clear trees for the movement of people and machinery.

Trecsa’s Sustainable Development Manager said, “We estimate that with the number of hectares of forest that have been conserved, it is possible to reduce the carbon footprint between 188.61 and 306.49 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, improving air and oxygen quality for approximately 1,445 people annually.”

At the beginning of Guatemala’s Expansion Plan for the Energy Transmission System, Trecsa estimated that 38.47 hectares of land was at risk of damage or erosion from the construction process. The use of drones has reduced this by 77.38%.

Drones are fast, agile and efficient compared to other traditional options which include workers climbing the lines or using helicopters. Moreover, drones minimise human interaction with high voltage equipment, a time consuming and risky task.

Trecsa’s Sustainable Development Manager continued, “Implementing drones in operations was an investment but it will generate long-term savings in operating costs. By using drones to lay the transmission lines the time to complete 1 kilometre of cable was reduced by 15% and the total cost of laying 1 kilometre was reduced by 10%.”

“By using drones to lay the transmission lines the time to complete 1 kilometre of cable was reduced by 15% and the total cost of laying 1 kilometre was reduced by 10%.”

Sustainable Development Manager, Tresca

Elsewhere in Guatemala, drones are being used to improve the sustainability of agricultural operations, allowing farmers to measure productivity, soil characteristics, biomass and detect the presence of pests and diseases.

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