BENSON, Ariz. (KGUN) – Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC) is getting a birds-eye view of some of their utility poles and it’s helping them prevent outages and fires. SSVEC is having some of their utility poles inspected for damages that may cause fires and outages.

SSVEC Vice President of Operation Nathan Hodges is working with FirmaTek to inspect 8,400 poles in Benson, Sierra Vista and Willcox. This is roughly 10% of the cooperative’s inventory across Cochise County.

We wanted to use the emerging technology of drones to leverage to to our advantage,” Hodges said. “Drones have a speed advantage and a safety advantage over the traditional inspection process.

Hodges said this is the first time the company is using drones and know this will give them more information than the visual inspections the linemen do. The top to bottom inspections are typically done with linemen going to the top of the pole in a bucket truck so they can see the top. Hodges says the process with the drones is more efficient.

Using the drones now to augment that process so we can look from the top down to find problems we werent typically seeing, he said.

FirmaTek Director of Business Development Ben Girset says with the drone they can inspect a pole and it’s hardware in less than a minute.

You cant see a lot of this stuff from the ground, thats the advantage of using a drone to identify theses issues,” he said. “If we come across anything that needs to be repaired, whether thats minor or major issues, were going to flag that for Sulphur Springs so they can make those repairs.

A report will be shared with SSVEC with all of the findings from FirmaTek, and Hodges said the repairs will be completes based on how critical they are. The inspections will be done next week so the repairs can be done before monsoon and fire season.

Its kind of opposite than what were used to, as far as peak load,” Girset said. “Right now they want us to do the inspection so they can go make the repairs in the spring time so they can get ready for the summer when people are using more power.

Cochise County is experiencing winter weather, but Girset said the project can continue if it’s not windy.

The only issue we could come across is high winds cause thats going to limit our ability to fly and do these inspections in a safe manner,” he said. “If it gets above 25 mile per hour thats when well kind of pause for the day.