Flamethrower drone used to obliterate objects hanging from power line

A drone with the State Grid Shanghai Electric Power Company took off on Wednesday near the Huqingping Highway to removed a plastic membrane.

Shanghai's electricity supplier has deployed a flamethrower drone for the first time to remove foreign objects hanging on high voltage electric wires.

The drone took off on Wednesday near the Huqingping Highway and removed a 5-meter-long plastic membrane flapping on a 500 kilovolt direct current line, posing great safety risks to the operating electricity grid, the State Grid Shanghai Electric Power Company said.

After the flamethrower drone ignited the membrane, it burnt and dropped onto the ground.

"It is quite difficult and dangerous for workers to climb onto the wires and remove things manually," said Wang Xinting, the leader of the drone operation team at the company.

It also takes longer — at least two and half hours — using traditional removal methods. The drone team named "Hawkeye" spent only 20 minutes to accomplish the mission, he added.

Wang said it is safe to use the flamethrower drone, which offers great control over the flame temperature and won't damage the electric wires.

However, it is more challenging to operate the drone to its position precisely. It can be disturbed by wind and the electromagnetic fields among the electric lines, Wang said.

The team has carried out several trial flights and improved the flamethrower to ensure better safety, he added.

Ti Gong

Engineers use helicopters to inspect the network in Fengxian and Jinshan districts in July.

The power supplier has deployed a batch of new facilities for the monitoring and maintenance on the city's electricity grid. Last month, engineers used helicopter to inspect the network in Fengxian and Jinshan districts as the city’s power usage reached a new high under the scorching weather.

The helicopters are fitted with high-definition cameras and other equipment so the engineers can check wires, towers, insulators and nearby trees. It enables engineers to inspect over 100 kilometers of power supply networks on each flight, compared with only 5 kilometers a day by inspecting on foot.

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