Southern California Edison is conducting aerial inspections of electrical equipment with helicopters and drones across Santa Barbara County’s South Coast.
Contracted helicopters began flying over local communities where Edison’s infrastructure sits starting earlier this week and are expected to wrap up Saturday, company spokesman David Song said.
The drone inspections are continuing “probably for another couple of weeks,” he said, mentioning that drones in the air can get into all the nooks and crannies that helicopters can’t.
Aerial inspection work is being done between Carpinteria and Goleta.
About a quarter of the aerial inspections are performed by drones, while helicopter activities make up about 75 percent, Song said.
“We do this regularly now,” Song said. “The aerial inspection work is a supplement to our ground-based inspections that we have done all along.”
The aerial inspections don’t start earlier than 7 a.m., and helicopters fly only when there is sunlight, Song said.
“We won’t fly out in the dark and capture images,” he said.
Early last year, Song said, Edison started conducting aerial inspections for all equipment in high fire-risk areas.
“There’s a lot of things you can see from that vantage point that you can’t from the ground,” he said. “We do cover a lot with ground-based inspections, but we want to ensure we have a complete picture of all our equipment.”
Edison has 1.4 million utility poles in its service area, which spans 50,000 square miles of coastal, central and Southern California.
Details of the total numbers of company equipment on the South Coast weren’t immediately available.
“We are going to great lengths, rightfully so, to inspect our equipment,” Song said. “This is for the safety of the communities we serve. We don’t want our equipment to be the source of ignition for a wildfire. We feel conducting aerial inspections is a key part of that, so if we do find problems, we can remediate issues right away.”
Low-flying helicopters in some areas caught the attention of local residents, some of whom called the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
“We have received several reports of low-flying helicopters over Carpinteria and Montecito — they are contract surveyors for Southern California Edison,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick posted on Twitter this week.