Ergon Energy is using ROAMES (Remote Observation Automated Modeling Economic Simulation) to map its vast regional Queensland network in a move that will transform its asset and disaster management capability a spokesman said.

Chief Executive Ian McLeod said ROAMES is using two specially modified Cessna aircraft fitted with laser scanners and digital cameras to map, photograph and inspect Ergon’s 150,000 km network of powerlines.

“The planes will fly over 600 communities and towns in regional Queensland every twelve months. Mapping has already commenced in many parts of the state and more recently in the north-west. The network from Townsville, Ingham and down to Shute Harbour will be mapped and photographed in the next few weeks,” he said.

Planes will fly at 500 metres or higher and may pass over properties several times as it maps the local network. Because of the plane’s high altitude it should not disturb livestock or properties.

Mr McLeod said ROAMES will not only reduce costs in keeping vegetation away from powerlines and change the way Ergon manages its assets, but save the company millions of dollars and improve its disaster response.

“In 2011/12, Ergon spent $94 million to manage vegetation that would otherwise pose a risk to the network or community safety. Using the ROAMES data, Ergon expects to save up to $59 million over the next five years and ultimately improve power supply reliability and community safety in regional Queensland,” he said.

ROAMES will ultimately replace the need for a number of ground based vegetation and pole inspection programs as well as audits currently undertaken before and after contractors are sent into the field to undertake the work.

“Ergon will be able to use simulations to assist every area of planning, whether for a natural disaster or to forecast growth rates of a particular area,” he said.

ROAMES has already been successfully trialled in disaster response this year.

“It was used in the aftermath of the Tasmanian bushfires. ROAMES successfully and expediently identified damaged sections of the local utility’s network and this capability will enable faster disaster response planning and power restoration.

“And one month later ROAMES was used during the Bundaberg floods to assist the council with flood imaging,” he said. 

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