Made-in-Calgary robot aims to bolster bird safety at power lines

Two Calgary companies hope a newly developed robot can help reduce bird collisions with power lines in Alberta

Article content

Two Calgary companies hope a newly developed robot can help reduce bird collisions with power lines in Alberta.

Utility AltaLink joined with FulcrumAir, an aerial robotics company, to create an autonomous drone that can install bird markers on transmission lines to prevent avians from hitting the infrastructure.

It’s the first time a utility has used this type of technology, AltaLink claimed.

“One of our programs is to mitigate any risk of collisions with wires,” said Nikki Heck, an environmental advisor with AltaLink who worked on the company’s avian protection plan.

“We’ve traditionally installed markers using a helicopter or bucket truck, but we wanted to find more automated ways where we could install the markers safely and efficiently, and reduce our environmental impact.”

Bird markers are small, reflective devices that are designed to make transmission wires more visible to birds in flight, reducing collisions between 60 and 90 per cent. It reflects light in both the visible and ultraviolet light spectrums, which birds see in.

Article content

The new drone, called the LineFly, is placed atop power lines and travels down the wire, placing markers at predetermined intervals. It can install 24 markers at a time, and up to 600 markers in a day.

The LineFly robot, developed by Calgary companies AltaLink and FulcrumAir, installs bird markers on a transmission line near Leduc, Alberta.
The LineFly robot, developed by Calgary companies AltaLink and FulcrumAir, installs bird markers on a transmission line near Leduc, Alberta. Photo by Supplied by FulcrumAir/via Postmedia Calgary

In areas where drones can’t be flown, the robot is placed onto wires with a bucket truck.

“This is a tried and true mitigation that’s being used by electric utility companies around the world,” Heck said.

The robot, which has been in development for the last two years, has been busy to date, installing 800 markers on one transmission line near Leduc since first taking flight last week.

It will be used to install another 4,500 markers this year across Alberta, with much of that concentrated near Brooks.

It’s an important initiative to minimize effects of Alberta’s utility industry on the environment and animal life, Heck said.

“We work really hard to mitigate any potential risks associated with our infrastructure,” she said.

“To be the first in the world to use this sort of technology, where we can safely and efficiently install markers as part of our environmental management system, it’s really exciting.”

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

View Source