Look Up in the Sky!

August 14, 2020

Every so often our company receives an inquiry about a helicopter flying along our transmission lines. Sometimes, the helicopter is quickly and efficiently surveying the condition of our lines and equipment. Sometimes, it’s enabling work on towers and lines that are not easily accessible by conventional means. Other times, it’s helping keep our service reliable by trimming trees encroaching on the rights-of-way – using a remarkable aerial saw dangling underneath.

Check out the video below of the aerial saw in action. Chris Hahn, supervisor, Transmission Vegetation Management, notes that the helicopter-and-saw combination does the job “faster than a tree crew, or a bucket crew, could do… Also, we use it in areas where you can’t get workers or equipment to; hilly terrain, or [where] it’s too dangerous for people to get in.”

Here’s how it works:

  • The saw consists of multiple 24-inch rotary blades powered by a motor suspended on a 20-foot-long vertical boom beneath the helicopter.
  • As the helicopter flies slowly along the right-of-way, the aerial saw trims trees and other vegetation.
  • Tree limbs up to 8-10 inches across are neatly trimmed without tearing. Limbs fall straight down, assisted by the downward air wash from the helicopter rotors.
  • Crews on the ground help ensure public safety and that trimmed limbs are properly handled.

The aerial saw offers advantages to affected property owners and communities by:

  • Protecting private land and roads from damage by heavy equipment and bucket trucks making repeated trips during the work schedule.
  • Protecting environmentally sensitive areas since it avoids having to take equipment in to perform the work.
  • Providing an option to maintain trees that might otherwise need to be removed.
  • Allowing more time between trims, depending on the location of the trees.

While the aerial saw is not a replacement for conventional tree-trimming methods, it is very effective on hard-to-reach transmission and distribution lines. It is designed to be a safe and cost-effective way to trim trees and enhance the reliability of the electric service we provide to customers.