National Grid takes flight again to inspect power lines

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — National Grid inspectors have loaded up once again to take flight and look over the conditions of power lines from the air.

Thursday, inspectors took a helicopter from Smithfield’s North Central Airport. They use an infrared camera to look down at “sub-transmission” lines, which generally carry electricity between substations.

Inspecting from the air makes it easier to get to more rural or remote areas, and the infrared camera can help spot trouble that the human eye can’t see — rough segments show up as bright spots in the video image. A portion of a line that may have been struck by lightning in a storm — perhaps even weeks before the inspection — can be spotted this way, National Grid spokesman David Graves said.

The aerial inspections have become routine; the crews inspected Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire lines in July as well.

Looking at lines from above allow crews to identify problems that may have cropped up from wind or other damage — before hurricane season hits its stride.