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Drones to deploy bird flappers on power lines

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Flappers are placed on power line cables to serve as markers to improve the visibility of power line cables to birds in flight.     PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Flappers are placed on power line cables to serve as markers to improve the visibility of power line cables to birds in flight. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

THE Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Energy Programme, in partnership with Eskom Holdings SOC Limited, has designed and developed a unique drone-operated system to carry and deploy bird flight diverters, or ‘flappers’, which serve as markers to improve the visibility of power line cables to birds in flight.

Collision with overhead power lines is a significant cause of mortality for several large bird species. Line markers are the preferred and most widely implemented approach to preventing avian collisions with power lines and can reduce mortality by up to 92% for certain species.

In South Africa, line markers are currently attached to power lines by hand, via helicopter for larger transmission lines, and a bucket truck for smaller distribution lines, which all present significant safety concerns. However, drone technology now provides an alternative that negates the need to bring linemen into contact with power line cables while potentially saving millions of Rands in helicopter time and other live line equipment usually required to perform the task.

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