Bird’s-Eye View

Drone image taken during inspections shows an osprey in nest with eggs.

May 16, 2018

From transmission towers to power plant cooling towers, FirstEnergy has been using drones to inspect a variety of facilities and equipment. The company recently applied the technology to get a bird’s-eye view of osprey nests built on the top of utility poles.

The osprey is a fish-eating bird of prey that often seeks out tall structures, including electric transmission towers and poles to build nests, which can measure up to three feet in width. At times, these nesting habits place ospreys near energized electrical equipment – jeopardizing their well-being and potentially leading to service interruptions.

Penn Power identified seven osprey nests on utility poles along a distribution line in its Mercer County service territory. “Some of the nests have caused power outages this spring,” says Michael Gordon, FEU-Staff Environmental coordinator. “We brought in the FirstEnergy drone team for overhead flight inspections of the nesting locations.”

Disturbing or removing osprey nests can be a complicated task due to environmental regulations. For example, an active nest containing eggs cannot be disturbed. “The team maintained a 330-foot buffer between the drone and nests,” Michael says. “If the drone observed a nest without eggs, a line worker in an aerial bucket truck would verify that it was empty before removing the nest.”

Assisting with the project was Amy Ruszala, advanced scientist, ED Support. Members of the drone team were: John Anna, manager, Advanced Maintenance Practices; Randy Inman, supervisor, PdM; Adam Waldron, advanced Generation specialist; and Dave Belski, senior Generation specialist.

“We appreciate our corporate environmental group’s support and the drone team’s assistance in helping to protect the ospreys while ensuring reliable service for our customers,” Mike says.

Watch a video of the drone inspecting the osprey nest on FETV.