By Lily Belcher
Neighbors who noticed low-flying helicopters last month did not need to be concerned. On June 15, Tampa Electric Company (TECO) began the annual inspection of Tampa Electric transmission lines as part of an ongoing inspection of the company’s transmission equipment. The aerial survey requires a single low-flying helicopter to fly within the view of urban and rural roads and neighborhoods, but citizens should not be alarmed.
“The inspections are part of the company’s ongoing maintenance of transmission equipment to provide the highest level of reliability,” said a press release from TECO.
The survey is conducted by OneSpan Powerline Services of Birmingham, Alabama, which was hired by TECO to ensure the validity of the inspections. Homeowners can expect a helicopter to fly 30 to 300 feet above the lines while workers use a mix of infrared technology and traditional cameras to inspect TECO’s 1,300-mile system of high-voltage transmission lines.
“They look for ‘hot spots’ along the lines, which can indicate a problem with a line or equipment,” said Tampa Electric Media Spokesperson Cherie Jacobs. “If they find a hot spot, they inspect further and analyze the issue and report it to us to resolve.”
The inspections took place from 8 a.m. until sundown each day throughout June, when the weather permitted. Local law enforcement was notified and was aware of the helicopter patrolling the area.
“These inspections allow us to proactively replace equipment before it fails, which helps to maintain reliability. We like to do these inspections before the peak of storm season,” said Jacobs.
This inspection was part of TECO’s 10-year storm plan, which aims to reduce outage times for customers after extreme weather events. The plan invests as much as $150 million a year to trimming trees, converting overhead lines to underground lines and surveying company transmission equipment.
This helicopter survey is part of the annual budget and comes at no extra cost to customers. As a result of its Storm Protection Plan and mission to improve reliability, TECO has reduced momentary power outages and strengthened wooden poles to prevent them from falling down or breaking in strong winds.