Drone crash into powerlines in Queensland causes power outage

Hundreds of customers were left without power for hours.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Drones can crash into powerlines.jpg
Drones can crash into powerlines.

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Delivery drones are useful, but the technology is in its infancy, which means things could go wrong.

On Friday, thousands of people in Browns Plains, in Queensland, suffered from a power outage after a food delivery drone crashed into their town’s powerlines, according to ABC Radio Brisbane.

Power restored quickly

Local energy authority Energex spokesman Danny Donald told the media outlet that the organization managed to restore power for about 2,000 customers within 45 minutes. However, about 300 customers were left without power for three hours.

Regardless, Donald insisted his team acted swiftly. "The meal was still hot inside the drone's delivery box when the crew got there," Donald said.

The event is entirely new to Donal. "This is the first time that I've seen it happen. It could have simply been an equipment malfunction. It may have been human error,” he explained.

Drone crash into powerlines in Queensland causes power outage
Delivery drones are the future.

Luckily, there was no permanent damage to the network, avoiding the risk of suing the drone delivery company for the repairs.

However, Donald added that companies should be more careful not to let objects hit power lines or cause damage to the network because financial requests for damages suffered could be demanded in the future.

Precaution needed

"Fifteen years ago, we asked people to be careful if they were giving their children kites for Christmas and where they were flying them. Now we're asking parents to be very careful with where their kids fly their drones," he said.

"It could bring down live powerlines. The last thing we want is people in danger."

He further explained that hitting a powerline could cause an immediate danger to those in the vicinity, not to mention a significant inconvenience to the residents and businesses that lose power.

He added that in his many years of experience, he has seen many objects cause power outages including shoes, umbrellas, trampolines, kites and even toilet seats. This affects more than just individual homes, he added.

"It's not just homes and businesses. We're talking street lights and traffic lights and that sort of thing," he said.

"It's common sense, really, and we're asking for that common sense to prevail,” he added.

The company that operates the drone delivery called Wing said its drone made a "precautionary controlled landing yesterday … and came to rest on an overhead power line".

"We immediately reported this to Energex, who attended the location,” the Wing spokesperson claimed. "We're sorry for any inconvenience caused. We're currently conducting a review of yesterday's event."

All in all, the incident was not too disastrous as Energex acted quickly and restored power efficiently. It does, however, serve as a precautionary tale. As we increase our use of drones, since technology cannot be stopped from evolving, we will increase the chances that said drones would hit powerlines. Perhaps drone manufacturers can conceive of a fail safe that would allow the devices to avoid such mishaps by sensing the high-tension wires.

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