This National Aviation Week, we’re highlighting the helicopters, drones and specialized equipment our crews can use to safely improve your electrical service from the air.

Helicopters and drones help restore power after a storm.
With a bird’s eye view of power lines, helicopter pilots and drone operators can quickly provide important details to crews on the ground. They are often used in rural areas to quickly scan land for issues and in cities to navigate narrow alleys or other hard-to-reach places.

View of storm damage as seen from a drone.

Locating the cause of an outage quickly, and understanding the type of damage, helps crews on the ground know exactly where to go and what equipment they’ll need to make repairs.

For example, a crew using a bucket truck or inspecting on foot may need to stop several times along a power line to find the problem. But a drone or helicopter can fly uninterrupted along the power lines to identify the outage location in a fraction of that time. Having eyes in the sky helps our crews get power back on faster.

“The majority of our restoration work after a storm is spent on the lines where the problem is hardest to access,” said Ryan Coon, AEP Ohio senior technician and drone operator for more than two years. “A drone can investigate an area in a faster, more efficient way.”

And, helicopters in particular aren’t just helpful for assessing storm damage; they also help crews replace broken electrical poles during emergency restoration efforts. Helicopters are especially useful when trucks can’t operate due to storm debris, blocked roads or hazardous driving conditions.

Aerial saws help safely and efficiently keep tree branches away from around power lines.
Did you know fallen trees and branches are one of the top causes of power outages? Every year, we inspect about 8,000 miles of trees along our power lines and equipment to help keep your lights on. Dense forests or steep hills can make it difficult — or even impossible — for our crews to navigate safely with a bucket truck.

As part of our ongoing, four-year forestry maintenance cycle, we use helicopters with aerial saws to proactively trim trees in more rural areas. The aerial saw allows us to operate more efficiently while safely trimming back trees in harder-to-reach areas.

You may be wondering, how does that work? A set of saw blades are securely attached to the bottom of a helicopter. A pilot then flies along tree-lined areas to trim back branches that are too close to our power lines and could interfere with the reliability of your electric service. If you’ve never seen a helicopter with an aerial saw, check out our video to watch one in action.

“The aerial saw is a technology that enables us to improve the reliability of our electric service both safely and efficiently,” said Dale Hopkins, AEP Ohio forestry manager. “At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping the power on for our customers.”

Learn more about how we help prevent outages, trim and remove trees and restore your power after storms.

4 responses to “Improving Your Service From Up in the Sky

  1. The video gave lots of information and showed a closeup of the saw, but would have been nice to see it cutting branches. The video of the helicopter in the air was very distant and no action could be seen.
    Thanks for the update. I’m glad you have efficient tools for getting the job done. Electric saws are ideal for this job.

  2. I’m very thankful when the power is gets turned back on. I often worry about the guys out there repairing the lines after an outage.
    Although I have daytime solar with no battery back up, I still prefer to have power. and I’ve noticed that power outages usually go along with bad weather, which means no solar so I am double out of power when the power goes out. 🫥

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