State Grid staff use drone to deice power lines as cold front buffets central China

Song, the deputy team leader, said compared to traditional ways to scrap or melt the ice, drone proved a more efficient alternative.

A cold front has barreled through much of China, bringing subzero temperatures and heavy snowfall to many parts of the country.

Snow and ice clinging to electric cables pose a safety hazard to power supply, as they could crush the cables and spark widespread outages.

Local staff of State Grid (国家电网), China’s state-run electricity provider, began to remove ice from electric cables in the north of Wuhan, the provincial capital of central China’s Hubei.

The city and adjacent regions were hit by the biggest snowstorm in 15 years, China Meteorological Administration said.

But instead of using traditional methods like melting the icing using heat generated by direct current, this time they chose a new method: drone.

According to Song Liang, deputy head of a maintenance squad of State Grid’s Wuhan branch, it takes less effort to knock pieces of ice off electric cables when they are still small and relatively soft.

He told media that a survey from the past few days indicated that the icing on cables was about 11 mm thick, and could be easily removed using mechanical tools.

Nonetheless, with the cables at least over 10m above the ground, the maintenance personnel had great difficulty reaching them.

A drone came to their aid. It took off, flew higher and hovered several meters above the wires, with a thick metal bar dangling underneath.

The bar then hit the cables multiple times, loosening the icing and causing it to fall to the ground.

Song, the deputy team leader, said compared to traditional ways to scrap or melt the ice, drone proved a more efficient alternative.

“By banging the bar against the cables, it (the drone) could make the snow and ice go away quickly,” he said. “We don’t need to cut off power supply and can prevent the formation of ice when it is not too late.”

All across China, drones have been utilized for a myriad of purposes. Unmanned inspection of energy facilities like remote power lines and substations is among the most common scenarios.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at

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