On board a helicopter above the power lines, in the sky of Yvelines

By

Méréva Balin

Published on

May 29, 2024 at 8:16 p.m.

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Headphones fitted to the ears, safety instructions well recorded, here we are ready for takeoff, this May 21, 2024, aboard the Air Touraine helicopter, the Enedis service provider for the control of medium voltage power lines by air.

While the roar of the rotors intensifies, the pilot checks the map and instruments before rising above the Fontenay-Saint-Père stadium (Yvelines).


Very quickly, the machine exceeds the treetops. “The flight will be at low altitude, approximately 10 meters above the lines », Announces the pilot. The roofs and gardens of the village of 900 inhabitants are revealed. “We don’t go down too far in order to limit the nuisance for local residents,” he adds. We are going to get closer to Mantes-la-Jolie. »

A good distance from urbanized areas

The Seine quietly continues its course at a good distance, the flight over urbanized areas being very controlled. We can see the Gassicourt district and its lake, the rowing basin of the Didier-Simond nautical stadium. Further on, the Val Fourré stands out. On the horizon, the chimneys of the old Porcheville power station watch over the panorama as usual.

As the helicopter makes a wide turn to return to its starting point, the northern part of the hamlet of Dennemont spreads out beneath our feet. Sometimes the pilot approaches the pylons and slaloming over power lines carrying a current of 20,000 volts. “There, a portion of concrete is missing,” he explains. This is probably due to the cold and frost this winter. »

The flight over Mantes-la-Jolie (Yvelines) is particularly regulated, it is impossible to approach the town on May 21, 2024. ©Méréva Balin

A team of three professionals

This sharp eye, usually accompanied by a navigator and a technical operator for Lidar (light detection and ranging), will report this fault to the electricity network manager teams. They will take care of ground repairs.

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The same goes for that missing piece of rubber at the top of another pole that he spots despite the distance separating him from the equipment.

“Here, the vegetation seems too close to the post. She is less than 3 meters away in my opinion. Lidar will confirm this. »

Air Touraine pilot, totaling thousands of flight hours

3D maps

Installed at the front of the helicopter, the tool allows you to create 3D maps indicating the plants to be pruned as a priority.

“Lidar also signals distances from obstacles,” adds Marc Fleury, Yvelines territorial director at Enedis. The priority issue for us is safety. Thanks to the helicopter, we can spot new constructions too close to pylons. We then alert the owner of the risks involved. We can also move the pole, but this is uncommon. »

The Air Touraine aircraft’s mission is to inspect overhead power lines, here in Yvelines, on May 21, 2024. ©Méréva Balin

A third of lines inspected each year

Every year, Enedis carries out this type ofpreventive air traffic control operation on a third of the 1000 km of electrical lines that the company administers in Yvelines and Val-d’Oise (700 km for Yvelines).

“We invest around €5 million per year to ensure the long-term resilience of our network in the west of Paris (Yvelines, Val-d’Oise and Hauts-de-Seine). With the increase in electricity transmitted as part of the national sustainable development policy, this is the industrial challenge we face. »

Marc Fleury, Yvelines territorial director at Enedis

There multiplication of climatic eventslike winter storms, also requires studying the robustness of the network, or even modernizing it to avoid power outages.

Overview Enedis Fontenay Saint Pere
The departure point for the flights on May 21, 2024 was the lawn of the Fontenay-Saint-Père football field (Yvelines). ©Méréva Balin

An industrial challenge

After a flight of around twenty minutes, the helicopter lands in the Fontenays sports venue. Opinions are unanimous on board, we would definitely go for a ride again. ” Normally, a flight lasts an hour and a half, concludes the pilot. We are in the air six hours per work day on average. »

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