mdpi uav powerWhen the distance between an obstacle and a power line is less than the discharge distance, a discharge arc can be generated, resulting in the interruption of power supplies. Therefore, regular safety inspections are necessary to ensure the safe operation of power grids. Tall vegetation and buildings are the key factors threatening the safe operation of extra high voltage transmission lines within a power line corridor. Manual or laser intensity direction and ranging (LiDAR) based inspections are time consuming and expensive.

To make safety inspections more efficient and flexible, a low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) remote-sensing platform, equipped with an optical digital camera, was used to inspect power line corridors. We propose a semi-patch matching algorithm based on epipolar constraints, using both the correlation coefficient (CC) and the shape of its curve to extract three dimensional (3D) point clouds for a power line corridor. We use a stereo image pair from inter-strip to improve power line measurement accuracy by transforming the power line direction to an approximately perpendicular to epipolar line. The distance between the power lines and the 3D point cloud is taken as a criterion for locating obstacles within the power line corridor automatically. Experimental results show that our proposed method is a reliable, cost effective, and applicable way for practical power line inspection and can locate obstacles within the power line corridor with accuracy better than ±0.5 m. Read More