FirstEnergy Corporation Turns to Helicopter-Mounted Rotary Saw to Reduce Power Outages

August 19, 2016

By Steve Anderson - Contributing Writer

A rotary saw—particularly one mounted on a helicopter—may sound more like the tool of a cartoon super villain than a power company, but in this case, truth is just a little stranger than fiction. At least, on the surface; FirstEnergy Corporation's plan to reduce power outages with a chopper-mounted chopper may be a bright idea after all.

Essentially, FirstEnergy realized that one of the biggest causes of power outages around were tree limbs falling where they shouldn't, particularly into power lines. Therefore, in a bid to reduce such issues, FirstEnergy sent out the flying sawblade to trim tree branches that were too close to said power lines. The overall system actually uses 10 24-inch saw blades hanging from a metal boom to trim the branches.

FirstEnergy turned to Aerial Solutions pilot Clint Martin to do the saw work, but Martin also depends on a ground crew to point out where various potentially disastrous impediments are like fences, tree stands and even the actual power lines in place. The ground crews also pick up the fallen limbs so as not to present a hazard to those on the ground. FirstEnergy, meanwhile, will notify those in the path of the flying saw work so as to make sure all involved are safely out of the way.

A great idea by most any standard, it's far from foolproof. While certainly, downed limbs are a big part of the power outage equation, errant tree parts are far from the only issue. From drivers hitting poles to curious wildlife immolating themselves on substations, there are a lot of causes of power outages. FirstEnergy is protecting against just one such cause, and that means there are many more reasons to lose power. Sometimes even excessive use—as has been seen in major cities on hot days—can be a trigger for a power outage.

Therefore, the prudent business—and consumer—will be prepared for these sudden outages with backup systems. Whether turning to a complete generator, telecommuting options, or even just an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) unit that allows users to save work and properly exit a system rather than just pulling the plug on an unsaved morning's work, there are plenty of options that can keep the juice on for just a little while longer and mean the difference between a day's work saved...or lost. With Atlantic hurricane season about to hit its zenith—and Sandy still fresh in some minds—it may be a good time to step up backup system efforts.

There's no doubt that FirstEnergy is doing what it can to keep the lights on. With good reason, too; every second power isn't consumed is a big pot of money the company is actively losing out on. This won't be enough to prevent all outages, and backup systems like UPS units will often prove to be valuable help in preventing a whole lot of business from being lost.

Edited by Alicia Young

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