5 Markets | Iridium satellites help utilities keep tabs on high-voltage power lines

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Lindsey Manufacturing, a firm that provides technology for electric utilities, has teamed up with Iridium Communications to offer a new tool for monitoring high-voltage power lines.

Lindsey developed a device that hangs on power lines and transmits information through Iridium’s satellite constellation, showing each line’s temperature, voltage and location. The Dynamic Line Rating devices can notify a utility, for example, if one of its power lines is sagging too close to trees or buildings.

Utilities increase and decrease the amount of power running through specific power lines to maximize the efficiency of their grids. Azusa, California-based Lindsey sells a range of products that pull information from the lines, analyze it and transmit it to customers.

Traditionally, Lindsey’s devices have sent data through cellular networks. Lindsey’s latest product, Smartline, includes an embedded Iridium modem, which enables utility companies to monitor power lines outside the range of cellular networks.

“Some of these power lines are well within terrestrial coverage but many of them straddle parts of the country that don’t have any other communication mechanisms,” said Tim Last, vice president and general manager of Iridium’s Internet of Things (IoT) business. “I can see that power infrastructure becoming more and more critical as the years go by. Hopefully, this will be a good satellite application for many years.”

As the IoT expands, energy companies are using satellites to transmit data from rural and remote sites and to keep tabs on mobile assets like drilling equipment.

“The last four or five years have not been great for the oil and gas industry but we are seeing that stabilize and in some cases come back, not just in the states but globally,” Last said in an interview.

Utility companies attach Lindsey’s Smartline devices to high voltage power lines to collect data, which is then stored in the cloud or on a company’s server.

“For us, partnering with Iridium was an easy choice,” Philip Spillane, vice president of marketing at Lindsey Manufacturing, said in a statement. “We are looking to change the way utility companies leverage the power grid, and to do that, we need to have absolute confidence that our technology can work globally and reliably, and the only way to ensure that is with Iridium. Their network provides us with reliable service, every time.”