United Energy’s vegetation management program, a year-round program that inspects and manages vegetation across eastern and south-eastern Melbourne, is underway.

The program aims to reduce the risk of trees and branches coming into contact with powerlines, which can lead to power outages and fires.

United Energy’s helicopters are fitted with advanced Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to accurately identify the distances of trees to powerlines. This information is fed back to experienced teams that will cut the vegetation away from powerlines to keep the network and community safe.

Headed up by a team of highly qualified pilots, the United Energy flights are taking place throughout March 2023.

United Energy Head of Vegetation Management, Chris Heinz, said the program was a critical part of keeping the network safe and reliable for customers.

“Our work is about reducing the risk of trees and branches coming into contact with powerlines, which can lead to power outages and fires,” Mr Heinz said.

“By inspecting the entire network every year, we are able to determine where and when we need to cut trees and branches away from powerlines.

“On any given day, we have hundreds of people managing vegetation to keep our network safe and reliable.”

Teams attend sites on both private and public property to assess and scope what cutting needs to occur. If crews are required to cut trees on private property, United Energy will notify customers in advance of any cutting unless the work needs to occur immediately for safety reasons.

“Each year we cut back hundreds of thousands of trees and branches away from powerlines to keep the network safe and reliable,” Mr Heinz said.

“We’re able to use the data from our LiDAR helicopter scans to form a 3D model of the network, which our teams use to identify trees requiring trimming.”

The Bell 505 helicopters fly at an altitude of just over 300m, capturing enormous amounts of data to form an accurate image of powerlines across the region and are operated by the network’s affiliate business, Beon Aerial Services.

United Energy had made significant investments towards improving its vegetation management in recent years, including bringing its aerial capacity and LiDAR data analysis in-house and implementing a new system to significantly improve delivery of the program.

United Energy is responsible for the cutting and removal of trees near its powerlines within the boundaries of private properties and on public land as part of Victoria’s requirements set by the state’s energy safety regulator.

Feature image: LiDAR image of a beach along the Peninsula. Provided by United Energy.

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